Off-target dicamba is a real problem, and unique for herbicides because of its volatility. To prevent self-inflicted or exogenous damage, many farmers, like us, will take one big step next year—planting all dicamba resistant beans.
This is a defensive strategy, forced upon us whether we use the dicamba-resistant technology or not.
The first thing I think should happen is to make the technology for dicamba resistance beans public property—rescind the patents, so that all seed producers can use it, and the trait can be propagated as widely and quickly as possible.
While this is clearly a taking from the originators of that technology, I think it is unfair and a dangerous precedent to allow technology companies to profit from solving a problem they create.
They would still have profits from herbicide sales and more extensive seed catalogs. Tougher restrictions or even outright bans could be even more expensive.
In return, patent holders could receive blanket immunity from litigation over damage caused by the product. Applicators would still be liable.
However, there is no easy path to such herd immunity for species other than soybeans, like produce, fruits, or flowers. After reviewing damage claims this year, I suggest clearly defined hold-harmless setbacks be established that would indemnify users when application is well-documented as following all guidelines.
These distances would be unique for each jurisdiction - with more protection in areas with sensitive crops, and less in heavily corn-soy areas. They should be reviewed annually for effectiveness.
For instance, a setback of a quarter-mile—which I just picked at random—might be required for a residence, with no dicamba allowed within that radius.
These setbacks could be lifted or lessened if all parties agree, which would allow market forces to help settle disputes. Farmers could negotiate relief from the setbacks—putting a dollar value to this tool—or use alternate weed control, such as manual weeding within the exclusion zone.
Finally, more attention should be focused on how short the window for usefulness might be for this technology. Experience should tell us that within a few years, dicamba resistance could be common.
Frittering away seasons in disputes about the reality and causes instead of finding workable solutions will harm users, technology companies and injured parties alike, while weed pressure mounts.
This is just one idea. I am sure there are other practical paths forward, but continuing the same ol' same ol' bickering promises only mounting adversity, escalating litigation costs, and degradation of public trust in our industry.