plant damaged by caterpillars
Damage from caterpillars. (Photo: Adobe Stock)

By Scott Dahlman, State Director of Government Affairs for Crop Life America

Reprinted with permission from the California Farm Bureau Federation

On Jan. 26, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation released its “Sustainable Pest Management Roadmap.” This 97-page document is the culmination of a nearly two-year process in which DPR engaged a 33-member stakeholder committee to look at the future of pest management in California.

The concept of “sustainable pest management” grew out of a desire by California regulators to create a solution in search of a problem. California growers have embraced integrated pest management, or IPM, for decades, a proven approach to sustainably managing their farms and only using pesticides when and where necessary and in the smallest amounts possible. The new roadmap for sustainable pest management attempts to apply additional standards above and beyond existing IPM practices.

The roadmap outlines priorities that will likely result in sustainable pest management being adopted throughout California. It incorporates considerations of economic benefits, gives attention to community impacts and equity issues, water conservation, biodiversity, soil health and climate. Its “keystone actions” are made up of some items we agree with and others that concern us.

The pesticide industry agrees with proposals that would put more resources into preventing new invasive pests and eliminating current ones. This work could help reduce the pest pressures on California crops.

We support efforts to improve DPR’s registration process. For too long, California growers have had less access to pesticides than their counterparts across the country. Nearly every state relies on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency review of pesticides to make their registration decisions. The EPA reviews hundreds of studies for each pesticide, analyzing the data on impacts on unintended species, the environment and risks to human health.

Once the EPA determines a pesticide poses no unreasonable impacts or risks, the product is submitted to states for registration. Uniquely, in California, DPR requires submission of many of those same studies for state review. This can take three to six years or more, resulting in California pesticide users not having access to products neighboring states approved years earlier.

We won’t debate this additional review, but it is clear DPR’s process must be more efficient so that California growers have access to pesticides sooner. Steps such as moving to an electronic submission and tracking system would put DPR on par with EPA. Identifying bottlenecks and adjusting resources to improve efficiency also would help. We appreciate that California officials are engaged in creation of that system now. Bringing new, innovative and more targeted products to market should be seen as a boon to sustainable pest management, and everything that can be done to accelerate the process should be considered.

Our concerns focus on the roadmap’s goal to identify “priority pesticides” and eliminate their use by 2050. The industry is committed to innovation and is constantly working to bring new products to market. Innovations increase productivity, allow farmers to use fewer and more targeted pesticides, and reduce environmental impacts.

While we will continue to work to bring those new products forward, current pesticides are still important, as they provide pest control when circumstances dictate that they are the best option. The fear is that the rush to eliminate certain pesticides may leave some growers with no viable options to protect their crops.

We believe that growers are best equipped to determine which product works for their situation. They should have as many options in the toolbox as possible. We all saw how the cancellation of chlorpyrifos left some growers without any pesticide options for certain pest and crop combinations. It is important that these impacts are considered during the review process.

Another concern with the roadmap is how the “priority pesticide” list would be determined. The workgroup could not agree on a set of criterion. It will be left to DPR, with guidance from a newly created advisory body. We are hopeful that this advisory panel will include scientific expertise and members representing growers, registrants and pest control advisors who can provide perspectives on how and why certain pesticides are used.

As registrants, we know how important it is to work with our grower allies as we look towards the future of pesticide use in California. That is why we partnered with the California Farm Bureau and other grower groups to form the Californians for Safe Pesticide Policy coalition, or CSPP. Together, we have commissioned several economic studies that highlight the impact of some of the policies in the roadmap to bring real economic data to the conversation.

We look forward to continuing our work with the California Farm Bureau and the broader CSPP coalition to help ensure California farmers have access to pesticides they need to continue to grow a safe and sustainable food supply for consumers in California and around the world.

(Scott Dahlman is director of state government affairs for CropLife America and chair of Californians for Safe Pesticide Policy. He may be contacted at

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