CFBF: Revised pesticide rule still not necessary


Issue Date: March 22, 2017
By Kevin Hecteman

The quarter-mile buffer zone is still in, but the 48-hour notice is out: Those are two main features of the Department of Pesticide Regulation's revised proposal to limit pesticide applications near schools and licensed child-care centers.

The original proposal was released in September 2016 and went through a round of public comment and hearings last fall. The revisions reflect those comments, DPR said in releasing them last week.

"It's still overkill," said Cynthia Cory, director of environmental affairs for the California Farm Bureau Federation, who said existing regulations are more than adequate to protect schools and child-care centers.

Cory said the proposal's approach would be tantamount to solving the DUI problem by banning cars.

She said CFBF supports existing regulations, as established by Assembly Bill 947 in 2002, under which county agricultural commissioners can set rules for applications around schools and child-care centers. A better idea would be to ensure each county has a communication plan in place, she said.

"If (the DPR proposal) is truly about notification and bringing awareness, this goes way beyond that," Cory said. "This prohibits activities, and it's not based on risk assessment."

The revised proposal still establishes a quarter-mile buffer zone around public schools and child-care centers, effective from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays. During those hours, farmers would not be allowed to apply fumigants or to apply pesticides via aircraft, sprinklers or air-blast sprayers. Most dust and powder applications would also be disallowed. Applications using a ground-rig sprayer, flood or drip chemigation, field injection and other equipment could be made, as long as a 25-foot buffer zone around the school was observed.

The original proposal called for farmers to give 48 hours' notice to an adjoining school before applying pesticides. That requirement has been removed. The revision also clarifies the definition of affected sites to mean any property used as a child-care center; any school property used by children during the school day; or similar areas identified by the agricultural commissioner, such as a park adjacent to a school used for sports or recess. Private schools and bus stops off the school grounds are not included in the regulation.

Blake Mauritson, ranch manager for Kaweah Lemon Co. in Lemon Grove, said he sees the revisions as an improvement, but says there are still logistical shortcomings.

"I would like to see some language holding the schools accountable for notification to (farming) operations for non-school days, school functions and such, as well as more pertinent training for the contact persons," Mauritson said.

As in the original proposal, the new proposed rule would still require farmers whose property abuts schools to file an annual notice by April 30 each year, detailing the pesticides expected to be used during the ensuing 12 months, beginning in July; a map showing the fields to be treated; contact information for the farmer and the county agricultural commissioner; and the website of the National Pesticide Information Center. If a farmer plans to use a pesticide not on the annual list, 48 hours' notice to the adjoining school would be required.

Mauritson said farmers would know in advance most of the pests being targeted, but he said products are always changing and farmers need to rotate their pesticides to prevent resistance and damage to the crops.

"This rule will affect our operation by changing our employees' routine and quality of life," he said. "We will now be forced to require our applicators to work between the given hours. Currently, they do not, and are given afternoons and evenings to be with their families at normal family hours."

Mauritson said local control among growers, schools and the agricultural commissioner is working in Tulare County, and that his farm and all the farms with which he's familiar "are already taking precautions without being told how to manage our businesses."

Cory noted that existing regulations include numerous precautions: "Exactly how much pesticide, how to apply it, what the weather should be like, what the temperature and wind (should be like), what kind of protective equipment should be on. Everything has been scientifically analyzed to prevent exposure."

She also said CFBF would continue to encourage school districts and land use authorities to avoid building new schools in farming areas. CFBF has supported legislation to this effect in the past.

A 15-day comment period on the revised regulations opened Monday and continues until 5 p.m. April 4. Comments may be emailed to dpr16004@cdpr.ca.gov; faxed to 916-324-1491; or mailed to Linda Irokawa-Otani, Regulations Coordinator, Department of Pesticide Regulation, 1001 I St., Sacramento, CA 95812-4015.

(Kevin Hecteman is an assistant editor of Ag Alert. He may be contacted at khecteman@cfbf.com.)

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.