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After refusing for years to allow use of Balance Pro herbicide in Minnesota, the state Department of Agriculture is reassessing its position. If the department changes course, the herbicide could be used on millions of acres of corn in Minnesota this year.
To Minnesota corn farmers, it could be a new weapon in the battle against pesky weeds such as woolly cupgrass and waterhemp. But to environmentalists, it is a pollutant capable of getting into ground and surface waters faster and easier than other herbicides.
"We want to make sure our growers have all the options available," said Craig Sallstrom, executive director of Minnesota Crop Production Retailers, a 600-member trade association that supports the product.
Not only would Balance Pro put Minnesota corn farmers on the same competitive field as those in at least 17 other states, but its availability would lessen the likelihood that weeds would develop resistance to existing herbicides, he said.
However, Janette Brimmer, legal director for the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, said the department should continue its ban.
"Here is an opportunity to change business as usual," Brimmer said. "We know ahead of time something is a possible water contaminant. The Department of Agriculture even acknowledges it. We could avoid problems upfront."