Chlorpyrifos pesticide sprayed by tractor
(Photo: Shutterstock)

By Jenny Holtermann, President, Kern County Farm Bureau 

California grows more than half of the nation’s fruits, nuts, and vegetables. Kern County rivals Tulare and Fresno for the top agriculture-producing county in the State and Nation. We do all of this with the strictest and most comprehensive pesticide program in the world. The California Department of Pesticide Regulations (DPR) oversees the sales and use of all pesticides in California and tasks the Agricultural Commissioners to carry out enforcement at the county level. Ag Commissioners monitor restricted use permitting, use of local conditions, environmental monitoring, and community outreach. Many will tell you that pesticide usage and availability to California farmers is the firmest and most stringent set of rules and laws.  

This isn’t good enough for some. DPR recently joined forces with the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) and the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) to formulate the Sustainable Pest Management plan. SPM’s course of action is to accelerate a statewide system to transition all agriculture, urban and rural community to essentially eliminate pesticide use of what they deem “high risk” pesticides and adopt a safer pest control practice. The roadmap establishes a state-level prioritization process of pesticides to eliminate by 2050. DPR outlines their main goals as “prioritizing pest prevention, coordinating state-level leadership, investing in building sustainable pest management knowledge, improving California’s pesticide registration process and bringing alternative products to market, and enhancing monitoring and data collection.” So much of this is already being done, but now the working group’s tasks to come up the plan have very little to no agriculture or farmer representation and much more environmental justice and activist involvement.  

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a common cultural practice by California farmers based on science and what tools work effectively in those given environments to minimize pest pressures. We are already using IPM and the most sustainable methods possible to grow food. In a state as regulated as California, we have already been forced to use less inputs. Not to mention, why spend more money on materials if we don’t have to?  

Just how are they going to implement this plan? DPR is proposing a $12 million tax increase to fund the SPM program by adding $54 million dollars to the DPR budget by the tax on these “high-risk” pesticides.  If they could clearly define the “high-risk” pesticides, I think it would be interesting to compare this list with the chemicals and pesticides being applied to imported food. As we all know, when stricter rules are imposed on California farmers, there is a trend to jump the border and grow the same thing elsewhere with less rules. Look at asparagus or even avocados, how much is being grown in Mexico and southern countries, all while less acres are being planted and harvested in California.  

DPR has a residue testing program to sample domestic and imported produce for intolerances. My issue with this sampling is that it is done at wholesale and retail outlets, distribution centers, and farmers’ markets. When it makes it to these outlets, it is already being consumed. Testing should be done at the ports of entry and state borders, as the food is entering the country. If DPR could take their “enhancing monitoring and data collection” to the imported products that we know have much more residue and chemicals uses, that would be better use of that mill tax. We know that California produces the safest and most regulated food in the world, yet our government continues to impose harsher rules on us. All the while continuing to allow imported food to enter this country and our state with chemicals that they have banned us from using.  

I challenge you to reach out to DPR and voice your opinion. Better yet, I challenge you to reach out to your assembly members and let them know your opinion on SPM. Our state assembly and senators must vote on the DPR budget and SPM tax. If ten of our readers reached out to their assemblymembers, that would be ten more boots on the ground, not letting the shoes on the carpet tell us what to do.  

Previous articleKCFB:Executive Director’s Report  
Next articleSave-the-Date for these Agricultural Events