By Emily Flitter
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency unveiled new restrictions on Friday on the use of the weed killer dicamba, which has caused widespread crop damage in the Midwest for the past two years.
The EPA said in a statement that only certified pesticide applicators, or people under their supervision, will be allowed to spray dicamba, which is manufactured by Monsanto and BASF in its newest form, onto crops during the 2018 growing season.
The EPA also said it is reducing the maximum wind speed and the hours during each day when dicamba may be sprayed, and will require farmers to keep records proving they're complying with instructions on the pesticide's label.
The agency has been conferring with weed scientists and state regulators in periodic conference calls to decide how dicamba should be regulated during the 2018 growing season. In September, sources told Reuters the agency was considering an outright ban on the pesticide, which is known to convert from a liquid to a gas and migrate away from its intended target under certain environmental conditions.
Company representatives had no immediate comment on the EPA's new restrictions.
Monsanto and BASF have said their latest formulations of the pesticide were specially designed not to migrate. But farmers reported more damage from migrating dicamba in 2017, the first year the two new formulations were available, than during the previous two years, when some farmers illegally sprayed older, more volatile versions of dicamba onto Monsanto's new dicamba-tolerant cotton and soybean crops.
Monsanto has said the damage problems farmers experienced during the 2017 season came from improper applications of its product rather than an inherent problem with its formula.
(Reporting By Emily Flitter; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)