By Craig W. Anderson

The Spray Safe meeting on Feb. 26 drew more than 275 farmers, supervisors, foremen, other farm employees and interested ag organizations to the Robert J. Cabral Ag Center to hear experts discuss the application of pesticides and the means of controlling drift and how to protect the health of workers and the public.

“Spray Safe is a great example of neighbor helping neighbor,” said San Joaquin County Agricultural Commissioner Tim Pelican. “The ag industry is doing a lot to protect the public and ag workers.”

Department of Pesticide Regulation

Teresa Marks, acting director of the Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) said the department’s staff of “40 scientists” is working on numerous projects, including the challenge presented by chlorpyrifos.

“Chlorpyrifos, research shows, can affect the developing brain of fetuses and how it is used depends on appropriate buffer zones and application method,” Marks said. “Our staff and the department continue to work with the agricultural community to develop ways to deal safely with chlorpyrifos.”

An attendee asked, “What can we do with this rain event?” Marks responded, “Regulations say materials cannot be applied over standing water ... but we’re doing what we can to help you.” She added, “Materials may be applied if there are no environmental concerns.”

An audience member said, “We’ve got to move now with some applications. What can we do?” Marks said, “We realize the problem and we’ll work with you and move as fast as we can. However, we can’t advise you to break federal regulations to solve your problem.”

Protecting water quality

Sarah Lucchetti, representing the San Joaquin Delta Water Coalition, explained the role of farmers and applicators in maintaining water safety, saying “Countywide toxicity monitoring revealed algae is the number one water issue.”

She said that with “... the water in the San Joaquin County region being monitored” and 25 pesticides being tracked “pesticide exceedance isn’t getting worse.”

She credited the success to “farmers and applicators following label instructions, observing extreme caution near waterways, knowing the solubility of the product and controlling drift.”

Lucchetti said the coalition “has all the information needed” to establish and maintain clean, pesticide free water.

Top 10 violations

Oscar Fierros, Cal Ag Safety, discussed the top 10 areas where violations occur:

10) handler training;

9) Availability of label, with hard copy backing up the digital label.

8) Handler decontamination facilities at mix and load sites no more than one - quarter mile away.

7) Service container labeling.

6) Hazard communication for field workers using display of updated notices.

5) A proper registration form submitted to ensure compliance.

4) Application - specific information for fieldworkers must be displayed within 24 hours.

3) Medical emergency care must be planned in advance and able to deal with medical emergencies.

2) Personal Protective Equipment must meet all requirements.

1) Complete compliance with labeling and permit regulations.


Mark Allen, farmer, PCA and beekeeper, said honeybees are the best for pollinating but new fungicides

affect the brood – pupae – and can kill hives of 50,000 to 100,000 bees. “Drift is the main menace,” he said. “There are measures that help: the timing of materials application, using less toxic alternatives in conjunction with integrated pest management and bee advisories on labels.” 

He said the PCA is the first line of defense for bees and “best management practices like clean water and food sources play significant roles in bee health. The Veroa Mite kills the most bees but pesticide deaths are way down.”

Dan Gudgel, retired meteorologist for NWS/NOAA and pilot, described how all aspects of the weather affect various application methods and pesticide formulations “that can be applied during narrow windows of opportunity while minimizing drift and offsite movement.”

“Concerning applications: all is for naught if you don’t have the weather,” Gudgel said. “Avoid weather conditions like inversion layers that can move materials offsite.” He pointed out labels cover all aspects of distribution including droplet movement, gravity assistance and the size of the droplets that get the material to the target field.

Laws, regulations

Jesse Fowler, San Joaquin County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office, gave an update of the laws and regulations concerning pesticides including label changes for paraquat, bee registrations and new interim chlorpyrifos conditions.

“One sip of paraquat and you’ll die,” Fowler said, adding that 50 deaths in the San Joaquin Valley were

attributed to paraquat in 2017. “The label’s been changed to emphasize the danger, a pamphlet attached to the label and only certified handlers can use it.”

Chlorpyrifos is labeled toxic, cannot be applied aerially, air - blast applications are allowed conditionally, 40 - acre block sizes and half mile buffers are mandated and the ag commissioner’s office must be contacted for its use.

Ed Lucchesi, San Joaquin Vector Control and Larry Fisk, City of Tracy Pest Control Advisor, discussed the grower’s perspective and implementation of Spray Safe.

Mosquito, urban perspective

Lucchesi said this wet weather creates breeding vectors for mosquitos at larval and adult sites.

“AgVenture has provided the benefit of getting the word out about abatement. The Spray Safe checklist also contains good advice about applications.”

Fisk said Tracy’s 10 qualified Applicator Leaders “... make sure applications do not harm urban or rural areas, including parks, yards, fields, schools, orchards, holding ponds, waterways and roadways.”