Last chance for public say on pesticide use near schools

Dec 8, 2016

Friday is the deadline for public comment on a proposed statewide rule change affecting pesticide use near schools and day care centers. The proposed regulation would limit pesticide applications to non-school hours and weekends on fields within a quarter mile of campuses. In Monterey county alone, over 70 schools are adjacent to commercial farmland. 

From 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, growers would not be able to apply pesticides by sprinkler, airblast sprayer or gas, and most dust and powder pesticide applications would be prohibited during those hours.

Dozens of people spoke at a recent public hearing in Salinas, urging the state Department of Pesticide Regulation to expand the ban even further - to a full time, one-mile buffer zone around schools. Lucia Calderon is with Safe Ag Safe Schools, and she said science is on their side.

“We had compilations of all the scientific studies that support the one-mile buffer zone that we are calling for in hopes that the DPR will use that to inform this regulation that is coming up,” Calderon. “If you are feeling passionate about this issue, there is still time to submit your public comment.”

The new rules would also require growers to alert school administrators about planned pesticide applications 48 hours in advance.

The California Farm Bureau Federation (CFBF) is against any new regulation of pesticide use near schools. Federation member and Tulare County farmer Blake Mauritson says in a CFBF video that farmers take human and environmental health seriously.

“We take every precaution, utilizing the right chemicals at the right time. 48 hour notification just is not enough time for us to make calls and operate our businesses efficiently,” Mauritson said.

CFBF spokesperson Cynthia Cory said the new regulations are tremendous overkill and that any more regulation of the state’s agriculture industry is going to drive farmers to move to places like Chile and Mexico, where Cory said farmers can grow crops without a “fraction of the oversight” faced by California growers in California.

The Department of Pesticide Regulation is taking public comment on the proposed regulation until 5 p.m. on December 9.