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.”
Tests Show Low or No Pesticide Levels in Most Fruits and Vegetables in California
By Charlotte Fadipe, California DPR
Once again, tests showed that the vast majority of fresh produce collected by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) met national pesticide residue standards. During its 2017 survey, DPR found 96 percent of all samples had no detectable pesticide residues or were below levels allowed by the U.S. EPA.
The findings are included in DPR’s just released 2017 Pesticide Residues in Fresh Produce report.
“DPR carries out an extensive sampling of pesticides on fresh produce, and once again it shows that California consumers can be confident about eating fresh fruits and vegetables,” said Brian Leahy, Director of DPR. “California growers and farmers are adept at following our comprehensive rules to ensure produce is grown to the highest pesticide standards.”
The 2017 report is based on a year-round collection of 3,695 samples of produce from 28 different countries, including those labeled as “organic.” DPR scientists sampled produce from various grocery stores, farmers’ markets, food distribution centers, and other outlets throughout California. The produce is tested for more than 400 types of pesticides using state-of-the-art equipment operated by the California Department of Food and Agriculture.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) sets levels for the maximum amounts of pesticide residue that can be present on fruits and vegetables, called a “tolerance.” It is a violation if any residue exceeds the tolerance for the specific fruit or vegetable, or if a pesticide is detected for which no tolerance has been established.
California Specific Results
More than a third of the country’s fruits and vegetables are grown in California, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). In 2017 DPR found:
-About 25 percent of all produce samples tested were labeled as Californian-grown,
-About 95 percent of these samples had no residues on them or were within the legal levels,
-About 5 percent of California samples had illegal residues, including kale and snow peas. These are pesticide residues in excess of the established tolerance or had illegal traces of pesticides that were not approved for that commodity. However, none of those residues were at a level that would pose a health risk to consumers.
Other highlights from the 2017 report include:
-41 percent of all produce samples had no detectable residues at all,
-55 percent had residues detected within the legal level.
-4 percent of all the samples had pesticide residues in excess of the established tolerance or had illegal traces of pesticides that were not approved for that commodity.
The Positives of Pest Management
By Mikenzi Meyers, Associate Editor
There’s a case to be made for both organic and conventional farming, but make no mistake that they both have the same intention: safe food for human consumption. Few people know this better than Brian Leahy, chief of the Department of Pesticide Regulation in California, one of the 16 agencies under the umbrella of the California Environmental Protection Agency.
There are certain precautions that all farmers need to take to ensure our produce is of the highest quality, one of which is the use of pesticides. Leahy explained that yes, even organic growers require pesticides to protect their crop.
“When your food leaves the farm, it goes through a lot of pest management,” Leahy continued, “We’re doing it every day, so let’s acknowledge that it’s there.”
The fact is, everyone uses pesticides, whether it be in the grocery store or our very own homes, and if they are not properly managed it can lead to trouble.
“We’re all in this pest management together. Let’s start putting the resources into it so that we do it in a way we think we want,” Leahy concluded.
To find out how DPR regulates pesticide use, go here.
Soares: DPR Interpretation of Cannabis is Wrong
By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor
George Soares, a partner in Kahn, Soares, and Conway, a law firm based in Sacramento, recently spoke about the issues surrounding cannabis. He is managing partner of the firm and represents several agricultural commodity and trade groups in Sacramento.
He spoke at the recent California Associations of Pest Control Advisors (CAPCA) annual meeting in Anaheim. He touched on the fact that the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) is not thinking of the public in their handling of crop protection materials on cannabis.
“The people of California have decided that cannabis can be consumed by the public,” Soares said. “The question is how to grow the cannabis under the regulation.
Currently, the chemicals and fertilizers used to grow the cannabis are all illegal.
“So far, the solution is that we make it legal by stretching the interpretation of the law,” he explained.
By law, pesticides have to be labeled for use, and eligible crops must be on the label.
“The pesticides being used are being interpreted in ways to make it legal to use on cannabis,” Soares said. “Think about the damage that is doing to the legal structure of what we all adhere to.”
“DPR would never let a pesticide be used off-label, but when it comes to cannabis, it looks like the government is willing to let it slide,” he said.
Cannabis Growers Must Adhere to Crop Protection Regulations
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director
There’s a whole lot of trouble going on for California cannabis growers. They need crop protection products for pests – such as mites, aphids, thrips, and mealybugs – and diseases, including powdery mildew, alternaria and pythium.
Now legally grown in the state, cannabis meets the definition of an agriculture crop and must adhere to all agricultural regulations and best management practices. This includes all Pest Control Advisor-written recommendations. As few products are approved for application on cannabis in the state, as well as nationwide, a PCA can now be cited for recommending a product that has not been officially registered and approved for a use on cannabis, specifically. With legal cannabis production going mainstream in California, PCAs face this risky predicament regularly.
“I discussed this point with Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) Director Brian Leahy this past week,” said Rachel Kubiak, DPR Pesticide Programs Division, Cannabis Program Supervisor. “I think we are at a point now where it’s important that we make policy decisions so PCAs know, as stakeholders, what our expectations are. PCAs deserve for us to do that, so we are working internally right now to try to get a lot of answers to these questions.”
Cannabis growers will have to buy products from licensed agricultural dealers.
“I understand, in talking to different folks, that many companies are not comfortable with the liability of attaining DPR registration approval for cannabis application and are therefore advising not to sell product to cannabis growers,” Kubiak said. “I completely understand that.”
“Going forward as a department, the concern, I think, is to bring as many farmers into the legal crop protection market as possible,” Kubiak said. “They are going to go exactly where they have been buying the products from, right? And if PCAs do not sell to them, but the cannabis growers must buy from them, these growers will have to purchase their crop protection products online, from Home Depot, or anyplace else. I can almost guarantee you that 95% or probably more of the cannabis farmers I’ve talked to over the last couple of months have no idea what we are talking about regarding applying registered materials to registered crops.”
“They have no idea that you cannot buy product anyplace and apply it as a pesticide,” she explained. “They do not know how to store it. So we have a lot of work to do in a very short period of time to bring these people into compliance and understanding.”
The scenario is even dicier for California County Agricultural Commissioners. These commissioners are required to enforce regulations on cannabis, as they are for any other commodity.
“We are working with the county ag commissioners to figure out how we need to proceed with and advise on this,” Kubiack said.
“I will tell you, usually as a department,” Kubiak explained, “we are inundated by the environmental justice community. Yet, they have been completely absent to this point on this particular commodity. So it’s almost bizarre and unusual not to be hit continuously from the left. But understandably, again, we’re now getting into these forums in which the Ag community has a voice and an interest,” Kubiak said.
“I’ve heard from both sides,” she continued. “I have heard from different Ag groups and PCAs who have said, ‘You know, we see a need for this—by a whole industry of people,’” she said.
And that whole industry, the cannabis growers of California, is crossing the regulatory line in crop protection. It has been reported that cannabis growers are creating a lot of environmental damage as well as worker safety concerns. Cannabis is grown primarily indoors, and according to Kubiak, “People are using pesticides without any concept of what they’re doing. Normally we would recommend that they talk to a professional, but that puts licensed PCAs in a hard spot because they cannot write a recommendation for a product that is not legally approved for use on that product.”
Kubiak said DPR is trying to bring as many of cannabis growers into the light as possible, “so that we have some regulation. Again, clearly this has been going on for a really long time, but at least now we are trying to go into areas in which we have some regulation but where people are not necessarily informed. So we bring crop protection management more into the light than ever before,” she said.
Is the DPR at a big turning point in working with county Ag commissioners?
“In the absence of putting up a product list,” Kubiak asked, “what is quasi-legal and what is not quasi-legal? We are trying to come up with solutions to some of these dilemmas.”
“There are counties that want the flexibility. Boards of supervisors and their counties are economically dependent upon this newly emerging industry that’s been in the North Coast for decades. They want the ability to use discretion. Nevertheless, Ag commissioners in other counties clearly are not comfortable with that whatsoever,” Kubiak said.
MRLs and Crop Protection Materials are Improving but Complicated!
By Laurie Greene, Editor and Patrick Cavanaugh, Associate Editor
Rachel Kubiak, Environmental & Regulatory Affairs director with the Western Plant Health Association, based in Sacramento, commented that crop protection materials are improving. They target specific pests and they are set to maximum residue levels (MRL’s) when sold domestically or internationally. Yet, they are quite complicated.
“The materials are getting better,” Kubiak said, “but I would say that there is a large component that I don’t believe the activist community understands,” noted Kubiak.
Richard Cornett, director of communications for WPHA, blogged, “What most people are unaware of is that there is a highly integrated and multi-layered process of safety procedures to assure that pesticides are accessed for their safe use around humans and in the environment.”
U.S. EPA (a) scientifically reviews all pesticides for safety before registration, (b) involves EPA scientists at the Office of Pesticide Programs, the Department of Fish and Wildlife, as well as other departments, (c) guarantees that any pesticide used in the U.S. has been accessed and is safe and (d) applies tolerances only to produce grown in or imported into the United States.
In California, the Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) enforces EPA tolerances by sampling produce for pesticide residues from throughout the channels of trade, both domestic and imported, including wholesale and retail outlets, distribution centers, and farmers markets.
“There are complications in making those products available to our growers,” Kubiak said, “because so much of what we produce in California is exported to other countries, and this MRL issue complicates things.”
Foreign countries follow an international standard called CODEX Alimentarus which contains a list of pesticide MRLs. EPA tolerances and International Codex MRLs are not harmonized; residue on an imported commodity can trigger a no-tolerance-established assessment and removal by California DPR while being a legal residue in other countries.
“I think this is a large area in which we could do better. Educating those who don’t live in our world on the difficulties in bringing new products to market isn’t as simplistic as they like to make it seem,” said Kubiak.
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