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By John Moore, President, Kern County Farm Bureau

After reading two articles related to AB 617 published by The Bakersfield Californian, this author and the Kern County Farm Bureau feel compelled to set the record straight. A hit piece published by the Californian that unfairly targeted Kern County Agricultural Commissioner, Glen Fankhauser, and three Op Eds are misrepresentative of facts, unscientific, and blatantly manipulative.

Lone actors within the Shafter steering committee have consistently negotiated in bad faith. While the agricultural community was facilitating productive conversation by holding meetings and attempting to collaborate with two outspoken members of the steering committee who have been featured in the Californian repeatedly and the director of the Department of Pesticide Regulation, the two activists went outside of these conversations to slander and lie about the Commissioner’s unwillingness to submit to their demands of an online notification system. The CERP, Community Emissions Reduction Plan, which all of this is predicated on requested a system that would benefit the Shafter community. The online notification system as pushed by activists is ineffective as illustrated by the Monterey system, which helps those located in large metropolitan areas in and outside of the state (only a small percentage of users of the notification system are local). Keep in mind, the most outspoken members of the committee do not live in the Shafter area, and have now pivoted to the Arvin-Lamont steering committee. From the KCFB’s perspective, if these groups are to be truly locally represented then this sort of dual representation should be prohibited.

The agricultural community, farmers and ranchers who live and work in the areas that would be regulated upon were not given a seat on the steering committee. Rather, environmental lobbying groups masquerading as social justice groups were chosen and they remain active in their pursuit to circumvent democratic action throughout the state. This is nothing new for these radical environmental groups. Once again, the representatives these groups elected and hoist in front do not live in the same area they so confidently choose to rule.

An important point that has so far been widely ignored is that agricultural commissioner was presenting the members of the steering committee with a solution, and as far as the KCFB knows Mr. Fankhauser is still attempting to do so. The solution the Ag Commissioner presented was to circulate door hangers for the Shafter community within a buffer zone double the label requirement. The solution was not a panacea and would have created a burden on agricultural applicators. But the offer was seen as a fair compromise if the actual goal was for community notification rather than an online system that could be manipulated by groups outside of Kern’s localities.

The goal posts are continually shifting. Originally the crop protection material targeted by the Shafter steering committee was 1,3-D. That has since grown in to two additional crop protection materials in what can be best described as an attempt to broaden the target from almond preplant fumigant to all crop preplant fumigants. Again, nothing new. The AB 617 Steering Committee fiasco is another reminder that we cannot base policy on unscientific and manipulation tactics and the KCFB implores all members to continue managing their own communities the way that only a local truly can. We cannot allow outside members to drive our local steering committees. It is a proven recipe for disaster.