Trey Kay, Loretta Williams Published

Farm Wars

Organic farmer Shawn Peebles speaks into a microphone. He wears a ball cap and points his finger out toward the audience.
Organic farmer Shawn Peebles voicing his concern about dicamba to the Arkansas State Plant Board.
Loretta Williams

America’s trade war with China is fueling a long-running battle over weedkillers in American farm fields. It’s a tough time to be an American farmer — especially if you grow soybean. They are a $40 billion business in the U.S., but the price of soybeans plummeted last year because of the trade war. Soybean farmers are desperate to restore their profits and one way to do that is to boost their harvest.

Weeds can get in the way of that goal. For years, farmers have been able to keep weeds at bay with products like Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup, but now, some weeds are resistant to the chemical. Monsanto and other chemical companies have  another effective weedkiller that relies on an herbicide called “dicamba.” But there’s a problem: besides killing weeds, dicamba can harm other sensitive plants. In fact, in 2017, the drifting chemical damaged some three and half million acres of valuable crops.

There are petitions and lawsuits in the works.  One farmer died in a fight over the weedkiller.  It’s forcing farmers to ask: where’s the line between doing what’s good for my business and doing what’s good for my neighbors?

In this episode, host Trey Kay and his colleague Loretta Williams travel to Arkansas to report on a simmering battle — more like a civil war — that pits farmer against farmer.