San Joaquin Farm Bureau Federation

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By Vicky Boyd

The California Department of Pesticide Regulation recently released a revised proposal covering application of agricultural pesticides near schools and day-care facilities that removed some of the contentious parts of a November 2016 draft. 

But the recent draft still restricts applications of certain pesticides within one-quarter mile of schools and day-care facilities weekdays between 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and requires growers to annually provide nearby schools and day-care facilities with lists of pesticides they plan to apply that year.

Joe Valente, a winegrape grower and vineyard manager, for years has worked around an elementary school in Lodi and one in Lockeford close to the Kautz Farm vineyards. He times his applications for weekends or holidays when students aren't present. 

What has him more concerned is the proposal that requires growers to present school principals or day-care administrators annual lists of pesticides they plan to use the upcoming season.

"I think the fear in that is that you're going to over-list products, meaning you'll put them on the list but you may or may not use them," he said. "And there's a difference between might be using them and actually using them. That will create an assumption with parents that we're going to be using 50 products when in reality, we might be using only eight."

Valente also questioned the need to list the brand name as well as the active ingredient. Using generic glyphosate herbicide as an example, he said he purchases different brands depending on availability, price and other factors.  Bruce Blodgett, executive director of the San Joaquin Farm Bureau, said he hadn't had time yet to carefully review the entire proposal, but he said Farm Bureau plans to provide written input during the 15-day public comment period that continues to emphasize a science-based approach.

Blodgett also questioned the practically of having growers try to predict months ahead what pesticides they plan to apply.

"How do you know, especially in a county like ours where we've been under quarantine before?" Blodgett said. "We have people who have had to spray more and different things than they expected because it was the only way they could market their commodity."

San Joaquin County Agriculture Commissioner Tim Pelican said he's still trying to determine exactly where all of the licensed day-care facilities are in his county so he could gauge the proposal's impact on local growers.

"We had the schools all mapped out, but the daycares are a little more difficult," he said.

His office will be in charge of enforcing the final regulation, and Pelican said he is exploring the possibility of making the annual pesticide list part of a grower's regular permitting process.

"We plan to be meeting with the superintendent of schools next week along with some people from the Farm Bureau to see if we can make this work," he said. 

After the comment period closes on April 4, CDPR will review comments and would need to send the package to the Office of Administrative Law for review by September for the regulation to take effect Jan. 1, 2018, as it is planned. Between now and September, the proposal could change, Pelican said. Even so, he said the new effective date of Jan. 1 should give all affected parties time to meet to finalize an efficient implementation method.

"We want to make sure this works for everybody," Pelican said.

Under the proposed regulation, growers would be prohibited from applying fumigants; most dusts or powder pesticides; or any pesticide by aircraft, airblast sprayer or sprinkler (chemigation) within one-quarter mile of schools and licensed child day-care Monday through Friday between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.

By April 30 of each year, growers also must notify the school principal or day-care facility administrator of the pesticides they plan to apply within one-quarter mile of those facilities during the upcoming July through June period. The annual written notification must include the names of pesticides and main active ingredients, maps showing fields to be treated, contact information for the grower and county agriculture commissioner, and the Web address for the National Pesticide Information Center.

Gone from the recent proposal is the requirement for growers to notify school sites or day-care facilities and county agriculture commissioners 48 hours before every planned pesticide application within 1/4 mile of these facilities. The only time growers would need to provide 48 hours' notice now is if they were using a pesticide not on their original list.

The revision also clarifies the definition of a school site and other terms. The regulations, for example, do not apply to school buses or vehicles not on school property, although the county agriculture commissioner may identify an adjacent park used regularly by schools on weekdays as part of the school site.

The proposed regulation does not include family day care homes as defined by California Health and Safety Code section 1596.78 — homes that regularly provide care and supervision for 14 or fewer children in the provider's own home for less than 24 hours per day. The proposal also does not cover private kindergartens, elementary or secondary school facilities, or vehicles or bus stops not on school property.

The proposed pesticide regulation stems from five public hearings CDPR conducted throughout the state in 2015 looking at pesticide applications near schools and day-care facilities. On one side of the spectrum, speakers said existing rules provided adequate safeguards since they allowed county agriculture commissioners to implement stricter regulations to address local issues Other speakers, however, advocated for even larger no-spray zones. The public comment period ended April 4.  The regulation is expected to take effect Jan. 1, 2018.