Tulare County Ag Commissioner’s Office to host Feb. 22 meeting for growers operating within a quarter mile of schools to prevent pesticide drift
TULARE – The Tulare County Agricultural Commissioner will host an important meeting on Thursday, Feb. 22 to educate growers on new laws and regulations related to pesticide applications near schools.
On Nov. 7, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) adopted new rules to further protect young students from pesticide exposure. The rules, which took effect on Jan. 1, are intended to provide minimum standards for applications near schools and child day care facilities, increase communication between growers and school sites, provide information to school sites for emergency preparedness, and to create an extra margin of safety in the case of a pesticide’s unintended drift onto campuses.
Ag commissioner Marilyn Kinoshita said that hasn’t happened since 2008.
“We rarely get calls from the schools, and when we do it is about the smell,” she said. “But smell doesn’t equal drift. Some pesticides have an odor that is purposefully used to repel pests.”
The new DPR regulation prohibits growers from spraying certain pesticides within a quarter mile of a school site between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. There are no restrictions on weekends when schools are out. The rule requires growers provide a notification by April 30 each year for all pesticides expected to be used through June of the following year.
The report must include the name of pesticide products, when they are expected to be used, and a map showing the location of the field to be treated. The notification must include contact information for the grower/operator and ag commissioner in case of an emergency and a web address for the National Pesticide Information Center, which provides sources of information and additional facts on pesticides.
“This isn’t really anything new from what we do now,” Kinoshita said.
The report must be provided to the principal or day care facility administrator. Schools may also provide parents and staff copies of grower notifications. An alternative written agreement between the grower, the individual school or day care site and the county ag commissioner can be developed as long as all three parties consent, and the agreement provides equal or more protection as the regulation.
“If there was ever any physical drift, like a mist, we would respond and take samples and investigate,” Kinoshita said. “But those procedures have long been in place.”
The DPR rule also requires that any fumigants, which immerses an entire area in a thick fog of gaseous pesticide, be applied at least 36 hours before classes are held. Kinoshita said that means growers will have to focus their fumigation sprays on holiday weekends or school breaks. “Those are generally once every two years,” she said.
Kinoshita said her office has sent invitations to about 400 growers in close proximity to schools throughout the county. Registration priority will be offered to growers within a quarter-mile mile proximity range of sensitive sites.
The seminar will be held from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on Feb. 22 at the International Agri-Center in Tulare. Call 684-3352 to register and to learn more. Kinoshita said growers and commercial pesticide applicators will receive continuing education training needed for growers to renew their private applicators certification and for commercial sprayers to maintain their state licensing. To learn more, visit: www.cdpr.ca.gov/docs/enforce/pesticide_applications_near_schoolsites.htm.