Tom Nassif: CA Farmers Face the Most Stringent Regulations in the World
By Cory Lunde, Western Growers
In response to the recent announcement that the California Department of Pesticide Residue (DPR) is acting to ban the use of the insecticide chlorpyrifos, Western Growers President and CEO Tom Nassif issued the following statement:
“California farmers are universally committed to the safety of their food, the health of their workers and communities, and the sustainability of their land. At every turn, they strive to achieve efficiencies in their use of resources like water, fertilizer, and pesticides and seek to minimize both the human and environmental impacts of these inputs.
“California farmers also face the most stringent regulatory environment in the world, one that often limits their access to many of the tools still available to farmers elsewhere in the U.S. and in foreign countries, including certain types of pesticides. Indeed, over the last 20 years, California regulatory actions have removed several of the most important crop protection tools farmers rely on to fight pests and diseases.
“With … [the] announcement that DPR will initiate the cancellation of chlorpyrifos, one of the most widely studied and globally approved insecticides, California farmers now stand to lose yet another arrow in their quiver—without effective and ready replacement tools—making their quest to grow the safest, healthiest and most abundant food supply in the world even more difficult.
“California farmers are resilient, but the long-term viability of our farms in California depends on proper support from the Administration and renewed cooperation of the state’s regulatory agencies, especially in light of the many other unique and expensive regulations that place California farmers at a growing competitive disadvantage.”
Flawed Data Forcing Cancellation
News Release From California Citrus Mutual
Recently, the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) and the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) announced that they are going to begin the cancellation process of chlorpyrifos. The statement cites scientific findings that chlorpyrifos poses serious public health and environmental risks to vulnerable communities.
“The decision to ban chlorpyrifos is not surprising given the significant pressure from anti-pesticide groups, active legislative proposals, regulatory proceedings, and ongoing court battles,” said CCM President Casey Creamer. “However, this decision relies heavily on an evaluation that was significantly flawed and based upon unrealistic modeling scenarios that are not verifiable by actual results in DPR’s own air monitoring network.”
“California Citrus Mutual and our member growers stand by science that is sound, that properly evaluates risks and puts forward appropriate safeguards to protect ourselves, our employees, and our surrounding communities. We are committed to safe and effective use of chlorpyrifos and other crop protection tools.”
“The process for which this chemical was evaluated was purposely exaggerated to achieve the desired outcome and jeopardizes the scientific credibility of the Department of Pesticide Regulation. This decision sets a terrible precedent for future evaluations and creates a chilling effect on companies planning on making significant investments to bring new products to the market in California.”
“The citrus industry is fighting feverishly to protect itself from the deadly citrus disease, Huanglongbing,” Creamer continued. “In order to do so, we must have the necessary tools in the toolbox for an effective Integrated Pest Management program.”
“The once mighty citrus-producing state of Florida has lost 70% of its production due to this disease, which is expanding exponentially in residential citrus trees in Southern California at this very moment. While our commercial growers will remain vigilant, it is vital that our policymakers recognize the seriousness of the threat and ensure sound scientific procedures are followed.”
“California Citrus Mutual will continue to be actively engaged in the regulatory processes around the cancellation decision and will continue to explore all potential remedies to allow the safe and effective use of chlorpyrifos.”
Collaboration Results in Win-Win Endangered Fish/Safe Thiobencarb Use Policy
By Laurie Greene, CalAgToday Editor and Reporter
Roberta Firoved, Industry Affairs Manager for the California Rice Commission, stated in a press release Wednesday, “A great example of our positive relationship with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) is found in the recent press release, ‘U.S. EPA, federal and state agencies, rice growers, industry act to protect endangered salmon and steelhead trout in California.’”
In the release, Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest, states, “Working closely with our state and federal partners, our joint efforts will protect salmon and steelhead trout while maintaining rice production in California. This action also supports EPA’s commitment to minimize pesticide pollution in the San Francisco Bay Delta.”
“This is a smart approach to pesticide use that includes important safeguards for protected fish while still allowing growers to care for their crops,” said Will Stelle, administrator of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA Fisheries) West Coast Region, in the same release. “This demonstrates that we can find balanced and workable solutions through collaboration.”
The California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR) established measures to protect salmon and steelhead trout based on proximity to endangered and threatened species habitat according to NOAA Fisheries geographic locations, as well as information and best management practices from the California Rice Commission and its grower members, plus the California Regional Water Quality Control Board – Central Valley Region. U.S. EPA and Valent, the manufacturer of the herbicide thiobencarb, also worked to put these restrictions in place.
After reviewing CDPR’s data on pesticide use and the state’s protective measures to be enforced by County Agriculture Commissioners, NOAA Fisheries found that thiobencarb use on rice in California would not jeopardize salmon and steelhead trout provided protective measures currently being applied in California are ensured.
“The positive approach we applied throughout development of the thiobencarb use conditions,” Firoved explained, “expanded into our interaction with the NOAA National Marine Fisheries Services (NMFS) as they researched and wrote the biological opinion (BiOp) for thiobencarb.”
Thiobencarb is a systemic, pre-emergence herbicide in liquid or a granular formulation that inhibits shoots of emerging weed seedlings. First registered for use on rice in 1982, thiobencarb is used to control grasses, sedge and broadleaf weeds in food crops such s rice (represents 95% of use), lettuce, celery, and endive. Thiobencarb, or Valent’s Bolero® UltraMax Herbicide, may be applied using ground spray equipment or by aircraft.
“The win for rice growers is that the farming practices developed over time are also protective of endangered species. We always assumed this to be the case, and entrusted the thiobencarb BiOp for confirmation.
Reflecting on the successful collaboration, Firoved stated, “We have no magic bullet, nor do we approach the issues with contention. Our perspective is that all participants around the table are looking for the same end result, no matter where they work.”
The California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) announced that once again, the majority of produce it tested annually had little or no detectable pesticide residues and posed no health risk to the public. 95 percent of all California-grown produce, sampled by DPR in 2013, was in compliance with the allowable limits.
“This is a vivid example that California fresh produce is among the safest in the world, when it comes to pesticide exposure,” said DPR Director Brian R. Leahy. “DPR’s scientifically robust monitoring program is an indication that a strong pesticide regulatory program and dedicated growers can deliver produce that consumers can have confidence in.”
DPR tested 3,483 samples of different fruits and vegetables sold in farmers markets, wholesale and retail outlets, and distribution centers statewide. More than 155 different fruits and vegetables were sampled to reflect the dietary needs of California’s diverse population.
Of all 3,483 samples collected in 2013:
- 43.53 percent of the samples had no pesticide residues detected.
- 51.51 percent of the samples had residues that were within the legal tolerance levels.
- 3.99 percent of the samples had illegal residues of pesticides not approved for use on the commodities tested.
- 0.98 percent of the samples had illegal pesticide residues in excess of established tolerances. A produce item with an illegal residue level does not necessarily indicate a health hazard.
Each piece of fruit or vegetable may legally contain trace amounts of one or more pesticides. The amount and type of pesticide (known as a tolerance), is limited by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. DPR’s Residue Monitoring Program staff carries out random inspections to verify that these limits are not exceeded.
The produce is tested in laboratories using state-of-the-art equipment operated by California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). In 2013, these scientists frequently detected illegal pesticide residues on produce including:
- Cactus Pads from Mexico,
- Ginger from China,
- Snow Peas from Guatemala and
- Spinach from the US
Most of the 2013 illegal pesticide residues were found in produce imported from other countries and contained very low levels (a fraction of a part per million). The majority of the time they did not pose a health risk.
One exception occurred in 2013 when DPR discovered Cactus pads, imported from Mexico, that were tainted with an organophosphate-based pesticide. This had the potential to sicken people. DPR worked with the CA. Dept. of Public Health to issue an alert to consumers in February 2014. DPR also worked diligently to remove the entire product it from store shelves and distribution centers. In addition, DPR asked the US Food and Drug Administration to inspect produce at the borders and points of entry to stop shipments into California.
California has been analyzing produce for pesticide residues since 1926 and has developed the most extensive pesticide residue testing program of its kind in the nation. The 2013 pesticide residue monitoring data and previous years are posted at: http://www.cdpr.ca.gov/docs/enforce/residue/rsmonmnu.htm
Homeowners Urged To Make Sure Gardeners Who Apply Pesticides Have License
The California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) is urging all homeowners to check that their maintenance gardener (landscaper) has a state maintenance gardening (MG) pest control business license from DPR if they are occasionally applying pesticides on their lawns. Homeowners can do so on the DPR website’s License and Certificate Holder List Page.
“Homeowners may not realize that maintenance gardeners are applying chemistry to their lawns,” says DPR director Brian Leahy. “We want to try and ensure they are doing so in a responsible manner.”
The license ensures that the person applying pesticides has been properly trained to use them on lawns and garden areas. If used properly, pesticides should not cause harm to humans or pets. However, improper use may result in illnesses or environmental problems.
Pesticides used on lawns and gardens may be washed to street storm drains and into local rivers, streams and even sensitive wetlands miles away. This may impact aquatic life.
“Your lawn may only be a small piece of land, but collectively, California lawns amount to many acres,” said Leahy. “Homeowners can play a significant role to reduce the amount of pesticide pollution (runoff) from lawns that are entering our waters through storm drains.”
Under California law, anyone who applies pesticides, even if it is only incidental to other maintenance gardening tasks, must have this DPR maintenance gardening pest control business license and be registered with the local county agricultural commissioner’s office.
In California, there are about 100,800 landscapers employed in the public and private sector who are responsible for maintaining homes, parks, golf courses, schools and plantings around malls, offices, restaurants and other locations.
Learn more about how your landscapers can obtain a certificate/ license at http://www.cdpr.ca.gov/docs/license/maintgardeners.htm