New state pesticide law affects local farms

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A crop duster applies a layer of pesticide to a local field.

New year, new rules.

Every year, Jan. 1 brings a new set of laws. One statewide rule in particular is getting attention in the Central Valley for its potential effect on local farms. On the flipside, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation has child safety in mind.

Starting Jan. 1, California farmers will no longer be able to make certain pesticides applications within a quarter-mile or less of schools and daycare centers between the hours of 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., Monday to Friday. The banned applications include application by crop dusters, air blasters and sprinklers, as well as most dust and powder pesticides.

“The new rule is an added layer of protection for school children,” said Charlotte Fadipe, assistant director of communications at DPR. “As you may know, in California agriculture is an important industry, and the vast majority of farmers do a great job adhering to our safety rules. However, California’s expanding population has resulted in a number of schools and day-care facilities being located near working farms, increasing the potential for unintended exposures to pesticides.”

Approximately 450 schools and day care centers are likely to be affected in San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Merced counties.

To adhere to the new law, scheduled applications may need to be changed, or the type of application or pesticide used can be altered.

In addition, farmers will be required to report all pesticides they plan to use in writing to schools and daycare facilities within a quarter mile of the application area on an annual basis. Local county agriculture commissioner’s offices will receive the same information in writing.

“The Central Valley is an important agricultural region in California, producing much of the fruits and vegetables for the nation, and most farmers are very safety-conscious and they want to be good neighbors,” Fadipe said. “While we were drafting this regulation, DPR spoke extensively to farmers, and we believe we can achieve these additional safety measures without too much significant inconvenience for them.”

Fines up to $5,000 will be charged to growers who do not adhere to the new guidelines.

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