Chlorpyrifos Under More Scrutiny in California

California Regulators Pursuing Health Protections for Chlorpyrifos

News Release

The California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) announced recently that both the California Department of Pesticide Regulations and the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment are pursuing health protections on one of the most widely used agricultural pesticides in the nation, chlorpyrifos.

The Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) released an updated draft risk assessment for public comment. This action marks the start of a public and scientific review of the document, which could lead to increased restrictions on chlorpyrifos statewide. DPR is currently developing interim restrictions on use of the pesticide and recommendations will be made to county agricultural commissioners next month.

In addition, the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) is referring chlorpyrifos for potential listing as a developmental toxicant under Proposition 65. OEHHA recently posted an announcement that the state’s Developmental and Reproductive Toxicant Identification Committee will consider the listing of chlorpyrifos at its next public meeting.

 “While chlorpyrifos has been protecting crops for more than 50 years, new information in the scientific community leads us to believe the level of risk it poses is greater than previously known,” said CalEPA Secretary Matthew Rodriquez. “We need to better understand the science to ensure our actions protect public health. The actions we are taking today reflect our commitment to the health and safety of all Californians, and the environment.”

Department of Pesticide Regulation

DPR scientists believe chlorpyrifos may pose a public health risk as a toxic air contaminant based on its assessment of the latest studies in the scientific community. However, this new finding, indicated in the updated draft risk assessment has not been peer reviewed and must go through a public comment period and be independently evaluated by other scientists.

On September 15, DPR will hold a public workshop on the updated draft risk assessment at the Pesticide Registration and Evaluation Committee meeting in Sacramento.

After the 45-day written public comment period, which began August 18, DPR’s updated draft risk assessment will go before an independent panel of nine scientists known as the Scientific Review Panel (SRP). The thorough review process, which may ultimately lead to more restrictions on use, may conclude in December 2018.

Next month, DPR will provide county agricultural commissioners with specific interim recommendations, including:

  • Increasing distances between sites where the chemical is applied and sensitive locations, such as homes and schools. These would be specific to each type of application method.
  • New restrictions on methods used to apply chlorpyrifos.

Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment

OEHHA will soon open a written public comment period on scientific materials that describe the evidence for the developmental toxicity of chlorpyrifos.  OEHHA will provide the materials and the written public comments to the Developmental and Reproductive Toxicant Identification Committee. The committee is an independent panel of 10 scientific experts that determines whether chemicals are added to the Proposition 65 list as causing birth defects and other reproductive harm. The committee will also consider public comments presented at its November 29 meeting.

If the committee adds chlorpyrifos to the Proposition 65 list as a developmental toxicant, businesses that knowingly cause exposures above minimum levels must provide a Proposition 65 warning.

DPR’s updated draft risk assessment and other documents relating to chlorpyrifos are available at:http://www.cdpr.ca.gov/docs/whs/active_ingredient/chlorpyrifos.htm

OEHHA’s notice of the November 29 meeting of the Developmental and Reproductive Toxicant Identification Committee concerning chlorpyrifos is available at: www.oehha.ca.gov.

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Expert Emphasizes Farm Equipment Safety

Nut Harvest Safety – Part 4

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

On the job injuries are all too common in agriculture when working with tractors and other machinery. We spoke with Paul Williams, a senior loss prevention consultant with the State Compensation Insurance Fund, about the importance of farm equipment safety.

One big safety concern is unguarded PTO shafts and missing guards, which could also lead to a hefty fine. Checking these areas are part of the preseason inspections that should be done at harvest. Farmers should get out there and make sure everything is working properly.

Farm Equipment Safety
Paul Williams

“It is cheaper to repair equipment in the shop than it is trying to make the repairs in the field. Just proper maintenance and making sure things are properly guarded,” Williams said.

According to Williams, wearing seat belts while operating tractors is also extremely important. “Every year we get these fatalities operating tractors. Fifty fatalities a year maybe in tractors; they’re all so preventable,” he said.

“We are all used to driving cars in our California, wearing our seat belt. We get on farm equipment, all of the sudden we don’t know what that seat belt’s for anymore,” Williams said. “There are all kinds of excuses for not wearing a seat belt. At the end of the day, your safety is worth the extra three seconds it takes to put one on.”

Even if your tractor has rollover protection, it is very important to wear a seat belt as well. A lot of safety equipment is the cause of death when a worker does not wear their seat belt.

“They are ejected and tractors roll over and what kills the worker? It is that rollover protection that crushes them into the ground,” Williams explained.

Many workers rush because they think that it makes them more efficient. If you are being rushed, you are putting yourself at risk.

“The whole idea at the end of the day is to go home to your family, safe. Be able to return the next day to your work. You should always work to provide, to live, not live to work,” Williams said.

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Fresno County Cotton Bloom Nearing

Cotton Bloom Is Later This Year

By Melissa Moe, Associate Editor

Cotton is an important crop in the Central Valley. We spoke with Daniel Munk, an irrigation, crop nutrition management, and cotton production systems farm advisor for UC Cooperative Extension, Fresno County. He told us about the heat that Fresno has been seeing and it’s effect on the upcoming cotton bloom in the area.

“The only good side on the heat is that we haven’t had this heavy, very high temperature heatwave occurring during the bloom period. The problem with heatwaves is that you can get pollen sterilization and incomplete pollenization of the flower. With that, you can get reduced seed count and you get flower drop. Certainly don’t want to have these above average temperatures well into 105 and beyond during our bloom period,” Munk said.

“I think we’ll see some of our early bloom fields occur right about July 4th, which is a little bit later than we’d like to see it. We’re talking Pima and Acala as far as the bloom period. Well over 90% of our cotton here in California is Pima cotton,” he said.

It’s advised that farmers monitor their crop for necessary nutrient application, and consider their options when doing so.

“I think with the variable stands that we have out there right now and the variable productivity of those stands, it’s certainly appropriate to consider the variation and nutrient availability and requirements out there. This would be a good year to look at differential applications of a nutrients in a field, particularly where there’s some stand issues,” Munk said.

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Prunes May Be Answer to Osteoporosis

Prunes May Help Fight Osteoporosis

By Melissa Moe, Associate Editor

California is the world’s largest producer of dried plums, producing about 40% of the world’s supply and 99% of the U.S. supply. Dried plums, also known as prunes, are considered to be a super food thanks to their valuable nutritional content. Recently, California Ag Today spoke to Donn Zea, the executive director of the California Dried Plum Board, about the prune industry and the nutritional benefits of prunes.

“The growers are doing well. Of course, we’ve lost acreage over the last decade. We’re at about 47,000 acres or so. We have a big crop this year; it looks like 105,000 tons. Last year was a short one because of the weather. We seem to be in a good place, Zea said. “I think acreage, certainly in California but even globally, is in balance with demand, and it’s our job now to make sure that we continue to keep California prunes at a high value profile. We like to think that we grow them better and that they taste better than any other prune in the world.”

Recent studies show that prunes are able to assist in aiding and even reversing osteoporosis, the process in which bones become fragile and brittle due to old age.

“We’re finding out a lot about the prune’s role in slowing or even reversing age-related osteoporosis and improving bone health in women so far, but we’re now doing research in men,” Zea said. “There’s a lot of exciting things going on there, especially for those that can’t eat dairy. It’s not the calcium. What we’re learning is that it’s a combination of polyphenols that are working together in prunes. The evidence seems to be clear, in the animal studies we’ve done and in the clinical trials that we’ve done, that these combinations of nutrients and micronutrients are working together to produce a defense against osteoporosis and bone loss and maybe even strengthening bone.”

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Heat Wave Puts Renewed Focus on Worker Safety

Worker Safety and Heat Illness Prevention is Important

By Melissa Moe, Associate Editor

There has been a definite heatwave in the Central Valley, and that means an extra effort should be in place to protect farm workers from heat illness. Darren Stevens is an associate safety engineer with Cal/OSHA Consultation. He explained to California Ag Today the areas where growers need to comply to ensure that all workers make it home safely.

“The big things to remember is that the employers need to have written policies and procedures that address the specific requirements provided for water, shade, written procedures, emergency procedures and training. Those are the real keys,” Stevens said.

With temperatures in the triple digits, heat illness can be a very real threat. It is important to know the signs and have a plan in place to prevent overexposure to heat. There are regulations in place to protect worker wellness, with guidelines that producers must follow to guarantee their safety.

“The minimum temperature for shade is 80 degrees, but shade also needs to be available below 80 degrees if it’s requested by the employees. Water has to be available at all times. Really, we want to make sure that the shade and the water is available at all times, primarily just because of the heatwave. Or if they’re coming from another area, they’re not used to this type of weather. We need to have those precautions in place,” Stevens said.

For more information about heat safety, visit https://www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/heatillnessinfo.html.

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Risk & Safety Manager Talks Heat Illness

Preventing Farm Worker Heat Illness

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director
Part of a Series
Larry Williams, Executive Risk and Safety Manager for the Hall Companies.

With temperatures heating up throughout the San Joaquin Valley, it’s extremely important that farm workers know how to prevent heat illness. Larry Williams is CEO of the Hall Companies, among the largest Ag labor contractors in this state. Williams is also the Executive Risk and Safety Manager for the company. They take workers’ safety in the field very seriously.

“The heat illness is a big thing for us, because we employ over 25,000 employees throughout the state of California. We’re in the ag industry, so heat is a big thing, especially coming up in the summer time for us,” Williams said.

Williams told California Ag Today how they protect workers across the state.

“We provide shade trailers for 100 percent of our people. In addition to the shade trailers, if needed, we have canopies, [and] umbrellas where needed for our individual irrigators or others. We try to make sure we’re ahead of the game,” Williams said.

Regulations state that shade must be available to all workers when temperatures reach 80 degrees.

“Yes, we have to have shade available, and every site that we pull up to, we automatically bring shade, whether it’s 60 degrees, or 100 degrees,” Williams explained.

“And of course, plenty of water must be available for all workers,” he said.

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Family Tree Farm Sees Good Season Despite Labor Laws

Family Tree Farm Rising to Meet Challenges

By Melissa Moe, Associate Editor

New state labor regulations continue to make daily operations more difficult for California farmers. With these increasing costs, it is difficult to stay competitive in a global market. Family Tree Farms is a family owned operation out of Reedley. Daniel Jackson of Family Tree Farms said that they’re doing well even, with the new labor laws that are making business more difficult for California farmers.

“The regulations grip us around the throat a little bit, and they’re getting tighter and tighter every year. We’re just trying to keep air in our lungs. To get creative, we have to find ways to be better farmers. To produce more yield and to do it more affordably with less labor. We have to be creative on our cultural practices and how we do that so that we can survive in the marketplace. We’re trying to make it work, but at the end of the day, it seems like every time you solve an obstacle three more pop up,” Jackson said.

Even with these new regulations, Family Tree Farms has been doing well. They have risen up to meet these new challenges, and the year ahead looks promising.

“The labor has been better this year, and I can’t really give the reason why. It wasn’t a great pollenization year, so crops are a little bit lighter as far as the fruits that are on the tree or actually having workers available. That could change as more crops start to come on as the blueberry harvest continues. Cherry seems like they’ll be wrapping up around here as grapes kick into gear later on in another few weeks, so we may run into those challenges as the season goes on, but right now, so far so good,” Jackson said.

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Sorghum May Be Alternative to Corn

Researcher Looks to Sorghum to Replace Corn Silage in Dry Years

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

Water has been a big issue in California for the last couple of years, and many dairy producers are looking for an alternative to corn silage for when water is scarce. Sorghum silage may be a viable alternative to corn. California Ag Today met with Jennifer Heguy, a farm advisor with the UC Cooperative Extension in Merced County who is working on a project, funded by the University of California, to research sorghum.

Heguy’s project consists of looking at sorghum silage to see if it is a good replacement for dairies when California does not have enough water to grow corn. Heguy said this is, “not a good time to talk about sorghum right now because we’ve had a really wet winter and we had this devastating sugar cane aphid last year, which just decimated sorghum crops, but we are continuing to work on sorghum silage.”

With the recent emergence of the sugar cane aphid last year, the sorghum crop in California took a big hit, but the project continues. Some of these projects can take two to three years to determine if it is a good fit into the California feeding systems.

“So this year, we are going to be taking a deeper look at the sorghum quality in terms of nutrition, fermentation characteristics, how people are putting this silage up, and how they are actually feeding it out,” Heguy said.

Photo Courtesy of University of California

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Farm Workers Fearful for Future

Americans not interested in farm worker jobs, Western Growers Association says

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

Jason Resnick
Jason Resnick

The noble farm workers moving though California orchards and vineyards – where they are pruning trees and tying vines, along with other winter work – are fearful that they could be deported.

“They are scared because there has been a lot of the rhetoric in the news out there that’s come from the presidential campaign,” said Jason Resnick, Vice President and general counsel for the Western Growers Association, based in Irvine. “It has certainly raised concerns for workers. However, we are confident that the President-elect understands the needs of agriculture, the importance of agriculture and that we rely on these workers to harvest the crops that feed the country and the world.”

“For the last decade agricultural leaders through all segments of the ag industry have been leaning hard on Congress for an immigration reform package that will do two things: One that will help us to maintain our existing workforce and to normalize their status,” Resnick said. “And two, we need lawmakers to streamline the future flow of workers who want to come here for the season and do the work and return back to their home country. It’s really a two-prong approach that we are looking for.”

And there has been additional rhetoric, along with letters to editors in major newspapers across the country. Many uninformed people are saying that farm workers should not be here because they are taking away American jobs.

“We’ve known for years and it’s been tested and proven again and again that Americans won’t pick crops at any wage,” Resnick said.  “As part of the H2A temporary agricultural program that allows agricultural employee who are facing a shortage of domestic workers to bring foreign workers to the U.S. to perform ag work services on a seasonal basis, we have advertised for American workers in multiple states.”

“We are seeking American workers to do the work at considerable higher wages than minimum wage,” he said. “And we do not get many Americans applying at all. And when we do, they come to work and they barely last a day, let alone the season.”

“People in this country would do almost anything rather than farm work,” Resnick said.

 

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Big Almond Crops Coming, Marketing Efforts Shift to Higher Gear

The Almond Board of California Has Eyes on European Consumers

By Joanne Lui, Associate Editor

The Almond Conference was held recently in Sacramento, and growers and pest control advisors heard lots of news from forward-thinking industry leaders. Stacey Humble is Vice President of Global Marketing and Communications for the Almond Board of California, which hosts the annual event. She told California Ag Today that extra big crops are coming.

Almond Board of California
Stacy Humble

“You know, we have a dramatic increase in production coming online – about 500 million pounds. So, in terms of marketing, we need to make sure that we are utilizing all the resources that we have to their maximum benefit and that we’re reflecting on lessons learned in synergies and opportunities that we can take from one market to the next,” Humble said.

The Almond Board is looking at how they can strengthen sales in new markets as well as existing markets.

“How we can do more in existing markets so that we’re balancing our investment portfolio?” Humble said. “We’re trying to do more quickly in some markets and establish ourselves for success in the long term in other markets.”

A good example of possible increasing sales is the big European market, such as Germany. They are the biggest importer of almonds, but consumers there do not eat them as a nutritious snack.

“The German consumer loves the flavor of almonds, loves almond products and is very familiar with it, but has the lowest top of mind awareness in any market that we work in when it comes to thinking of almonds as a snack,” Humble said. “That is a huge opportunity. It’s essentially a new market for us, within an established market where we have existing trade relationships, where the consumer is familiar with the product and seeks it out already but just does so as a bakery ingredient.”

 

 

 

 

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