A bill that would require increased penalties for off-label herbicide use passed in the Missouri House and moves on to the Senate. The bill could be passed as early as mid-March.

“Immediate action is necessary to ensure the vitality of the agricultural industry in this state by preventing the devastating effects of the misuse of herbicides,” states HB 662, the bill relating to misuse of herbicides.

The bill would increase fines for illegal use of herbicides. First offense fines increase to $1,000 per applied acre instead of $1,000 per field. If someone is found illegally using herbicide for two consecutive years or twice in three years fines increase to $2,000 per applied acre. In addition, anyone who is penalized will be liable for costs associated with testing.

In 2016 more than 41,000 acres of farmland were damaged by illegal dicamba application. Last year the state received more than 100 pesticide drift complaints and launched an investigation into four southeastern Missouri counties. Complaints came from a variety of crops including soybeans, peaches, tomatoes, watermelons, cantaloupe, rice, purple-hull peas, peanuts cotton, alfalfa and residential plants.