A Focus on Overwintering Pests and New Spray Regulations Near Schools
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director
California Ag Today recently spoke with Ryan Jacobsen, CEO and executive director of the Fresno County Farm Bureau, about pest pressures in Fresno county as well as new pesticide regulations that were put put in place around K-12 schools and licensed daycare centers beginning Jan 1.
“When you talk about pest pressure, the warmer temperatures that we saw last year because of the multiple storms that were rolling through helped help many pests get through the season and start in greater numbers earlier in the year, and that’s what we saw happen. We have had many warm days so far this winter, and it will be interesting to see if pests respond to that in the coming spring,” Jacobsen said.
“There definitely this time of year when it comes to so many of our different other crops that folks are doing all their different cultural practices to make sure that they are doing what they can in vineyards, orchards and open grounds to reduce those pest pressures for the upcoming year and hopefully you get through the season,” Jacobsen explained.
And there are new regulations that farmers will have to follow when spraying within a quarter mile of schools and licensed daycare centers between 6am and 6pm. But Jacobson says that this won’t be a big change for farmers, as Central Valley farmers had been following regulations like this for many years.
“Most of these have been in practice by these growers in south Joaquin Valley for years. Our kids are going to those same schools, and we’re trying to be the best neighbors and stewards of the land next to these schools as possible,” Jacobsen said. “Nevertheless, every time you get to government involved, obviously there’s going to be some difficulties and some paperwork or regulatory red tape that’s going to be added to the process there. And I think that’s what you’re seeing with these current rules here in Fresno County.”
“And I know where our agricultural commissioner’s office has worked hand-in-hand with local growers regarding spraying near schools,” he said. “But in anticipation of these rules, and just even before they were even discussed, the industry did what they could to make sure that these applications that were next to schools were done appropriately successfully and that there was no issue.
Dave Brassard of Brassard Pesticide Regulatory Solutions, based in Washington D.C., regularly assists with getting new products registered with the EPA. California Ag Today spoke with him about making comments regarding the registration status of crop protection products.
“We’re pesticide consultants, and we basically assist registrants into getting everything registered, and getting through a lot of the data requirements, data waiver processes, that they need to go through,” he explained.
Brassard and his wife have a combined total of 73 years experience working in the EPA’s office of pesticide programs.
“The importance of data collection in pesticide regulatory reform, and the need for real data collection to be used in growers defense. Especially when growers reach out for support, the data is the most important, and the most reliable, form of evidence to present to the EPA,” he said.
“What typically happens is we will keep track and count the number of comments. But a lot of comments are very generic, and are not supported by data,” Brassard said
Simply having a large number of comments is not enough; it’s the quality content that really matters.
“So a lot of times it just becomes a little blurb that we had 10,000 comments from stakeholders worried about a concern, but what really, I think, makes a big difference, is if it’s somebody sends in data that can change EPA’s opinion on something,” Brassard explained.
“Let’s say that the EPA is going to regulate a chemical that is the only chemical to control, say, an obscure pest that we didn’t even consider in our original analysis. Somebody sends in that studies, and boy that stops the presses! It’s, ‘Let’s review this,’ ” Brassard said. “Does this change our opinion on anything? Can we make an exception for this particular use-pattern? Is there a different kind of risk-mitigation that we can impose?”
“Sending in real data are comments that make a real difference,” he said
With Cannabis being voted in to be legalized in California, regulations will need to be made to keep consumers and workers safe. California Ag Today met with Brian Leahy, Director of Pesticide Regulation out of Sacramento, about Cannabis.
“It is very complicated, but at the end of the day, our job is to help the growers create a crop that is safe for the consumer, safe for the environment and safe for the worker,” Leahy said. “This will all be done in conjunction with all of the other state departments that are working on this. It is the goal for the Cannabis growers to be just like any grower.”
Research is being done with the current Cannabis industry. New health protective guidelines are in the making. One major concern about the Cannabis industry is the amount of pesticide residue. This means that there worker safety issues along with human consumption issues. The industry is already taking steps to resolve this problem.
“The federal government does not recognize it; it’s not a crop. The producers have to remember it’s not a crop, so their laws even on worker safety, overtime, are not the same as agriculture,” Leahy said.
Ag Commissioner & Farmworker Advisory Committee Announce Historic Pesticide Initiative for Farmworker Safety
Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner, Eric Lauritzen and the Farmworker Advisory Committee, formed with the assistance of the Center for Community Advocacy (CCA), announced an historic initiative TODAY aimed at providing additional pesticide protections for farmworker safety. The initiative launches a pilot program with leading growers to enhance worker notification through warning signs when pesticides are used in the fields.
“California has the toughest farm pesticide restrictions in the nation, and Monterey County already imposes local rules that further protect farmworkers,” said Lauritzen at TODAY’s press conference. “But we are going to do even more to communicate our commitment to safety in the fields.”
“We are excited about this initiative that adds an additional element of protection for farmworkers by providing the time and date when it is safe to reenter the fields that require posting,” said Lauritzen. “Farmworkers are the backbone of Monterey County’s $4.8 billion Ag industry, and they are entitled to the highest standard of pesticide safety.”
Intended to protect farmworkers, the initiate “has created a relationship between our office, the regulators and the farm worker community,” said Lauritzen. “And it’s really building trust and confidence with our office and the regulatory program there to protect farmworkers,” noted Lauritzen.
Additionally, every farmworker in Monterey County (approximately 50,000) will receive a business-card-sized information card (in Spanish) advising them to call the Agricultural Commissioner’s Office if they suspect violations of safety rules. The cards also advise employers that it is illegal to retaliate against farmworkers who seek the help of the Agricultural Commissioner’s Office.
The information card reads:
If you have questions or complaints on pesticides, the Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office will help.
The card includes phone numbers and advises workers that state law also protects them against retaliation if they report a pesticide problem.
Currently, regulations for posting pesticide warning signs do not require information indicating the date or time when it is safe for farmworkers to re-enter the fields. The pilot program will include the addition of one sign that will be prominently marked with a red flag and include the date and time that the law allows workers to safely reenter the field. Only the grower or his/her officially designated representative may remove the signs, after first showing the crew leader proof that the re-entry restrictions have expired.
Osvaldo Cisneros, a lettuce worker and member of the Farmworker Advisory Committee, feels that the change is very important. “Some farmworkers have been showing up for work and have been told by their mayordomos (supervisors) to re-enter fields even though warning signs are still up,” said Cisneros. “They have to depend on the word of the mayordomos even though they have no way to verify what they are told. This change will allow farmworkers, themselves, to tell when it is safe to enter fields.”
The posting and information card initiatives were developed in cooperation with the Farmworker Advisory Committee, a group formed jointly by Lauritzen and the non-profit Center for Community Advocacy. “Many farmworkers are unaware of their right to a safe working environment,” said CCA Executive Director Juan Uranga. “That’s why it is important to provide farmworkers with the information they need to both protect themselves and also gain access to the agencies, like the Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office, that exist to protect them.”
A second member of the Farmworker Advisory Committee, Maria Elena Andrade, added: “It is important for our community to know that the Agricultural Commissioner’s Office exists to serve us, as well as the other parts of the agricultural industry. We are trying to create that message through the Farmworker Advisory Committee, even as we work with the Ag Commissioner and his staff to improve safety for farmworkers.”
Growers involved with the initiative include Sea Mist Farms, Tanimura & Antle, Bayview Farms, Scheid Vineyards and Costa Family Farms. Lauritzen recognized these leading growers for their, support, innovation and dedication in their effort to provide additional protections for farmworkers.
Lauritzen briefed officials at the state Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) on the pilot warning sign program and the information card campaign. DPR Director Brian Leahy praised the Monterey County initiative. “We all know that farmworkers are the most vulnerable population in terms of potential exposure to pesticides,” said Leahy. “When we protect farmworkers more effectively, we also enhance protection for the environment and the community at large. This initiative represents an important step forward for farmworker safety, and it underscores California’s leadership in environmental protection.”