A worker sprays weeds in a vineyard south of Warnerville Road in eastern Stanislaus County. Once drylands grazing for cattle, orchards and vineyards are now taking over, making the lands both more profitable and more valuable. Taken Oct. 30, 2012. JEFF JARDINE / jjardine@modbee.com Credit: Modesto Bee file / Modesto Bee

What's at stake?

State officials say a pesticide notification system will "advance environmental justice and further protect public health by providing transparent and equitable access to information in advance of pesticide applications occurring near where people live, work or play."

State officials are seeking public input on a pilot program that requires local agriculture operations to alert nearby communities when they plan to spray hazardous pesticides.

This week, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation is hosting three workshops – one virtual and two in-person – to present an update on the state’s pesticide notification pilot programs and solicit public feedback.

The meetings – which are taking place in Ventura County (Oxnard) on Monday, Tulare County (Orosi) on Wednesday, and Thursday online via Zoom – are part of the state effort to develop a statewide notification system.

According to a DPR update on the system, the tool will “advance environmental justice and further protect public health by providing transparent and equitable access to information in advance of pesticide applications occurring near where people live, work or play.”

Pesticides are used in agriculture to control insect pests and reduce yield losses caused by pests.

But in the Central Valley and beyond, rural residents and advocates have pushed for county governments to notify residents before pesticides are sprayed nearby.

According to a state Pesticide Use Report, in 2018 alone, California sprayed a cumulative 209 million pounds of pesticides. The Pesticide Action Network, an advocacy group, said pesticide use is “significantly” higher in Latino communities.

Multiple studies have found that pesticides harm the health of nearby communities. A 2016 study in the Frontiers of Public Health academic journal said that humans could suffer from dermatological, gastrointestinal, neurological, respiratory, reproductive problems as a result of chemical pesticide exposure.

California is taking steps to limit the public health impact of pesticide use in recent years.

The 2021-2022 state budget allocated $10 million to the development of the Pesticide Notification Network, a statewide system that provides information to the public about pesticides used around them.

In 2018, the state passed a law saying pesticides cannot be sprayed within a quarter-mile of a school or daycare from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

So far, the DPR has developed four pesticide notification pilot programs in Riverside, Santa Cruz, Stanislaus, and Ventura counties that will inform the design of a statewide system. The programs vary in terms of the information they provide – and the radius in which they notify residents. In all participating counties, notifications are available in English and Spanish. In the case of Stanislaus and Ventura counties, more languages, including the Indigenous Oaxacan language, Mixteco, are also available.

As of June, there still was no decision on which pesticides to include on this notification list. According to a state summary report, “growers generally agreed with the proposal to include restricted materials only.” Meanwhile, “community resident groups would like to include pesticides beyond restricted materials.”

According to a DPR workshop presentation, the DPR is also developing proposed regulations to apply the notification requirements across the state. Implementation is planned for 2024.

How do I weigh in on California’s pesticide notification program?

Two in-person meetings will be held next week to gather feedback on the pilot programs and answer questions from the public. Here’s where:

Oxnard: Monday, Nov. 7, 5 p.m. – 7 p.m., in person
Oxnard Performing Arts Center in Ventura County: 800 Hobson Way, Oxnard, CA 93030

Orosi: Wednesday, Nov. 9, 5 p.m. – 7 p.m., in person
Orosi Memorial Hall in Tulare County: 41645 Rd 128, Orosi, CA 93647

For those who want to attend virtually, here’s how to join:

Zoom: Thursday, Nov. 10, 5 p.m. – 7 p.m., virtual meeting
Zoom link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85867200295?pwd=ZGNIMlJOVnFCTEp4VVVsRzBnbmpGQT09#success
Meeting ID: 858 6720 0295
Passcode: 750189
Call In Number: +1-669-900-9128

The UC Davis Center for Regional Change is facilitating the workshops. Spanish interpretation will be provided at all workshops and Mixteco interpretation will be available at the Oxnard workshop.

For those who are unable to attend these sessions, the DPR also invites written feedback on the pilot projects. This feedback will be used by the UC Davis Center for Regional Change to incorporate into its independent evaluation of the pilot projects.

Feedback must be submitted by Monday, Nov. 14, 2022, at 11:59 p.m., via email to ProjectNotify@cdpr.ca.gov or by mail, to: 1001 I St., P.O. Box 4015, Sacramento, CA 95814

For more information, please visit: www.cdpr.ca.gov/docs/pesticide_notification_network/

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Melissa is a labor and economic inequality reporter with The Fresno Bee and Fresnoland.

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