plane spraying pesticide on farm field
A sunrise view of an aerial crop duster flying low over a farm, spraying a field of potatoes. (Photo: B. Brown /

By Natalie Willis, Reporter, Valley Ag Voice

The California Department of Pesticide Regulation proposed a regulation to notify the public prior to applications of restricted material pesticides a month after requesting that a Bakersfield pilot be barred from application.

In Sept., DPR responded to complaints of various illegal drift incidents which “harmed at least one person and damaged property.” DPR went on to explain they sought a court order to bar the defendant, John A. Slykerman of Agra Fly Inc., from aerial pesticide applications.

“The California Department of Pesticide Regulation is taking immediate action against Slykerman and Agra Fly for their repeated illegal actions that have injured people and property,” DPR Assistant Director Ken Everett said in a press release. “DPR’s quick action is needed to prevent further egregious violations.”

Following these allegations, Judge Thomas S. Clark of the Superior Court of Kern County temporarily ordered the company to stop aerial pesticide application.

Now, DPR has proposed to build on existing regulations for restricted material pesticides by requiring application plans for an agricultural commodity to be submitted through a new statewide information system 24 hours in advance. Soil fumigant-restricted materials must submit information 48 hours prior to application.

The push for pesticide notification in Kern County has been ongoing since the implementation of Assembly Bill 617, which was established to reduce exposure in communities most impacted by air pollution.

Several community members within the AB 617 subcommittee appealed to the Kern County Board of Supervisors in August to voice concerns over collaborative differences with Kern County Agricultural Commissioner Glenn Fankauser.

“He has told us that he will not do the pesticide notification until more people get sprayed, and he feels that there is no justification to do so until more people are in danger or until more reports are made,” advocate Gustavo Aguirre said at the meeting.

However, Fankhauser told Eyewitness News that the pesticide notification is a statewide program and, therefore, not a local issue. He pointed to state planning for a notification website that should be ready by 2025.

“That’s not a state regulation, that’s not a requirement to let people know, but that’s what the state came up with, they’re working on it,” Fankhauser told Eyewitness News.

DPR will host three public hearings on the notification system — Dec. 13 in Clovis, Dec. 14 in Ventura, and virtually on Dec. 19.

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