Commentary: Tell DPR its proposed regulation is unnecessary 


Issue Date: November 2, 2016
By Cynthia Cory
Cynthia Cory
Farm groups say a proposed state regulation on pesticide use near schools is not based on the scientific principles the California Department of Pesticide Regulation has used in the past.

On Sept. 30, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation released a proposed regulation that would impose extensive restrictions on farming within a quarter-mile of K-12 public schools and licensed child care centers, from Monday through Friday between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Farmers have until Dec. 9 to tell DPR that existing rules already assure safety and there is no evidence the new rules would enhance safety.

Existing rules already provide many layers of protection, have been carefully developed by DPR to provide safety and have been used without incident for many years. On the other hand, the DPR proposal is extremely restrictive and would delay or prohibit pesticide applications without improving safety.

The proposal contains three different sets of restrictions, grouped by application equipment and type of pesticide. All three groups require annual notification of schools and child care facilities.

In the first group, DPR proposes no fumigation or aerial, sprinkler, air-blast, dust or powder applications, including sulfur, during the Monday-Friday, 6 a.m.-6 p.m. period within the quarter-mile buffer zone.

In the second group, with a 25-foot buffer and a 48-hour prior notification to the school, a ground rig sprayer, flood or drip chemigation, field injection and other equipment could be used.

In the third group, bait stations, field injection of dust or powder, granule, flakes or pellets, backpack or hand-pump sprayers or non-fumigant applications in greenhouses would be allowed without a 48-hour notification or any distance requirement.

The problem with this entire proposal is that it is not based on anything resembling the scientific principles DPR or the federal government have used for decades to develop our current, protective application protocols.

DPR bases the supposed need for these new regulations on a 2010 California Department of Public Health study that "provided data on pesticide use practices," but also states that "study results cannot be used to predict possible health impact." DPR was unable to quantify any benefit of this far-ranging regulation, stating, "Any health benefits of the prohibitions are unknown."

We cannot stand by while DPR throws decades of research and science out the window, or watch while food production is pushed out of California to countries with far less oversight and environmental protections than our current laws provide.

Farmers must urge DPR to provide leadership and respect the integrity of the laws and regulations it has already put in place, which provide a safe and sustainable urban-rural interface. The state cannot continue to allow schools to leapfrog out onto agriculturally zoned land and then tell farmers to stop using sound agricultural practices that have long been approved by all levels of government. This regulation equates to a property grab with no compensation.

But there's more. An unjustified, quarter-mile buffer zone is bad enough, but paid advocates are instilling unfounded fear in parents and teachers and asking for a one-mile pesticide buffer zone to be put in place around schools and child care centers, 24/7.

This is serious, folks. Everyone needs to take a moment and voice their concerns on this proposed regulation. A large agricultural coalition is working on this effort, so reach out to your various organizations that stand ready to help you.

Here are several things you can do before Dec. 9, which is the comment deadline:

  • Attend one of these three hearings:
    — Nov. 15, 6 p.m., Oxnard Performing Arts & Convention Center, 800 Hobson Way, Oxnard;
    — Nov. 16, 6 p.m., Tulare Veterans Memorial Building, 1771 E. Tulare Ave, Tulare;
    — Dec. 1, 6 p.m., Salinas Sports Complex, Exhibition Mall, 1034 N. Main St., Salinas.
  • Sign the opposition petition at www.cfbf.com/farmteam, and share with others.
  • Print the note and mail it to DPR, addressed to: Linda Irokawa-Otani, Regulations Coordinator, Department of Pesticide Regulation, P.O. Box 4015, Sacramento, CA 95812-4015.
  • Look for more notes to follow in Ag Alert® and continue to send them to DPR until Dec. 9.

(Cynthia Cory is director of environmental affairs for the California Farm Bureau Federation. She may be contacted at 916-446-4647.)

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