Monsanto To Offer Cash To Farmers Using Controversial Herbicide On GMO Soy

Monsanto claims that its herbicide XtendiMax is safe when applied properly by soybean farmers. The herbicide has been linked to widespread U.S. crop damage. Regulators in multiple states are considering restrictions on the use of the weed killer.

According to Reuters, the U.S. "faced an agricultural crisis this year caused by new formulations of dicamba-based herbicides, which farmers and weed experts say harmed crops because they evaporated and drifted away from where they were sprayed." Now, the mega-corporation is offering an incentive to U.S. farmers. Monsanto could refund soybean farmers more than half of farmers' purchase price for XtendiMax if farmers agree to spray it on soybeans that were genetically modified to resist the dicamba-based herbicide.

"We believe cash-back incentives for using XtendiMax with VaporGrip Technology better enable growers to use a management system that represents the next level of weed control," Monsanto product manager Ryan Rubischko said.

Monsanto is offering farmers $6 per acre if they apply the herbicide on Xtend soybeans in 2018. XtendiMax costs farmers around $11 per acre to purchase.

The cost to actually use the product could be greater if farmers consider lost revenue from other crop yields, critics suggest.

"Dicamba is highly drift-prone," Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, senior scientist with the Pesticide Action Network, explained.

North Dakota regulators planned to prohibit any use of dicamba-based herbicides after June 30, 2018. Missouri regulators plan to finalize statewide restrictions and county-wide bans during the 2018 growing season. Arkansas regulators seem close to prohibiting spraying after April 15, 2018.

Corn and soybean fields side by side.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency already mandated special training for farmers using dicamba-based herbicides and now requires farmers to keep records that prove that they complied to the instructions on the product's label. Seeking Alpha reported that the new restrictions will make it more expensive and inconvenient to use the controversial herbicide and that Monsanto executives hope that the cash back offer will convince farmers to use it in spite of the problems.

Monsanto's Chief Technology Officer Robb Fraley also wrote an open letter to the company's "farmer-customers" indicating that in addition to offering farmers $6 per acre, the company will also distribute specialized spray nozzles at no cost.