BREAKING NEWS: Historic Monterey County Farmworker Safety Initiative

BREAKING NEWS

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.”

 

Eric Lauritzen, Monterey County Ag Commissioner
Eric Lauritzen, Monterey County Ag Commissioner, speaking at Press Conference TODAY on Historic Farmworker Safety Initiative

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.”


Historic Note:

The accord reached two years ago between the Office of the Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner, the agency that oversees pesticide regulations and other worker safety matters, and the Center for Community Advocacy (CCA), a farmworker advocacy group, established the Farmworker Advisory Committee for the Office of the Agricultural Commissioner of Monterey County—the first of its kind in the State Of California.



 

AgroThermal Announces Impressive 2014 Winegrape Trial Results

11 California Winegrape Trial Blocks Average Over 30% Yield Increases

 

By Laurie Greene, CalAgToday editor and reporter

 

AgroThermal Systems produced a third year of impressive winegrape fruit set results in 2014 patented Thermal Heat Treatment process trials, averaging 23% more berries per bunch and 27% more bunch weight at mid season. Yield per vine at the end of the season showed a 31% gain in treated blocks vs. control blocks.

The data, developed under the direction of the Dawson Company, which creates sales opportunities for new agricultural post harvest, produce ripening and crop production technologies and novel agrichemicals, came from 15 trial and control blocks in the Southern Salinas Valley, Livermore and the Central Valley. According to the company’s founder and president, Art Dawson, “ We have been sampling fruit set and bunch weights in conjunction with AgroThermal since 2012 and this represents the 3rd year of a consistent average increase of over 20% in fruit set at mid season vs. corresponding trial blocks. There is no doubt the technique produces more fruit, even in great fruit set years as evidenced from over 30 blocks tracked since 2012.” The increase in fruit set varied by varietal; it appears the response to instantaneous heat treatment is varietal-specific.

In 2014, the two companies collaborated on sampling harvest weights and berries per bunch counts a few days in advance of harvest, in 11 of the 15 winegrape trial blocks. According to Dawson, “We stripped six vines in each control and trial block to get a projection of weight per vine. The average increase was 31% more weight per vine. This indicated that the technique not only created more berries per bunch, but this advantage was carried forward to harvest yields.”

According to Marty Fischer, CEO of AgroThermal, “When we saw these sampling yield projections, we asked our growers to confirm their actual harvest data. Getting grower data on harvest yields has always been challenging due to the frenetic activity at harvest, the very reason why we decided to do the sampling prior to harvest. We have confirmation of substantial yield increases for 7 of the 11 blocks at Scheid Vineyards located in the Salinas Valley,” Fischer said, “and are awaiting grower harvest data from the other four blocks.”Scheid Vineyards

Shawn Veysey, Head of Viticulture at Scheid in Greenfield, California stated, “We were very excited by what we have seen with the AgroThermal technique. We have blocks with up to a 40% increase in berries per bunch and weight per bunch. This translates to a 1 to 2 ton increase per acre.”

Fischer credited the increases in 2014 to a treatment shift; “Different protocols produce significantly different results after experimenting with treatment start dates, frequency of treatments and time of day applications. Growers who don’t want yield increases but want to change wine character need to use a protocol that provides more berries per bunch leading to higher skin to pulp ratios. Growers who want a yield increase need to adhere to a different protocol of treatments.”

AgroThermal expects some 15-20 wines to be barrel-tasted from the 2014 trials in California and Oregon, with wine quality results announced sometime in early 2015.

 

Agrothermal Systems Introduces North America Sales Manager

Kim Boyarsky was recently appointed North America Sales Manager, bringing wine industry marketing experience to AgroThermal Systems. She has spent ten years in customer development representing packaging and cooperage companies in the wine industry. For the last three years, she was Territory Manager with Barrel Builders, Inc. in St. Helena, California, where she was responsible for consulting with winemakers on barrel selections for current wine vintages in California, Oregon and Washington.

AgroThermal Systems (www.agrothermalsystems.com) is based in Walnut Creek California and is a dba of Lazo TPC Global, Inc. a California Corporation. AgroThermal has pioneered the use of in-field heat treatment as a means to increase yields, reduce pesticide needs and improve crop qualities. The company holds patents on Thermal Pest Control and has patents pending on Thermal Plant Treatment for agricultural crops . The AgroThermal Systems technology has shown consistent results for improving fruit set, harvest yields, pest control and improving certain wine sensory characteristics in various trials conducted in the US from 2012-2014.