APRIL 2019


 Report: County Ag Commissioners are not doing their job

Chlorpyrifos latest news

First of its kind organic-to-school bill in California

Pesticide Approval Process Violates State Law, UCLA Report Finds
Permits are granted without considering safe alternatives for hazardous pesticides such as chlorpyrifos, or how pesticides may interact with each other 

California's Agricultural Commissioners routinely fail to comply with state law requiring them not to issue permits for hazardous pesticide use without first considering whether safe alternatives exist or whether there is potential for harmful interactions with other pesticides used at the same time. That's the explosive conclusion of a new report by UCLA researchers released today entitled  Governance on the Ground: Evaluating the Role of County Agricultural Commissioners in Reducing Toxic Exposures . In fact, the report found that none of the 24 agricultural counties studied is in compliance, indicating a total collapse of oversight of a key set of state laws governing pesticide use.
The report has touched a nerve among community members alarmed at continued use of the organophosphate pesticide chlorpyrifos, linked to irreversible brain damage in young children. The UCLA team studied the process for granting permits to use chlorpyrifos in 13 agricultural counties and found that no effort was made to consider safer alternatives. In every case, agricultural commissioners ceded their oversight role to private Pest Control Advisors hired by growers, and took no steps to ensure compliance with the law. The report has fueled calls for more accountability to ensure that existing laws to protect public health are followed.
"Our Ag Commissioners aren't chosen to serve growers but to make sure they follow the law," said Sarait Martinez, coordinator of the local Safe Ag Safe Schools (SASS) coalition. "There shouldn't be any chlorpyrifos use unless growers can demonstrate they've tried safer alternatives first. That's the way it should be with all hazardous pesticides."
The study also found that county agricultural commissioners fail to comply with state law requiring them to consider the cumulative impact of multiple pesticides used simultaneously on the same or neighboring fields.  Prior research has revealed that pesticides used in combination may increase cancer risk by more than just their sum. The researchers requested any records that would show how agricultural commissioners evaluate combined impacts from three carcinogenic fumigant pesticides commonly used together - chloropicrin, metam sodium and 1,3-dichloropropene (Telone). They found no evidence of any legally-required evaluation before approving their use. The researchers cited 824 cases in 15 counties where two of the three fumigants were applied in the same square mile area within 72 hours of each other in 2015.

"These brain-harming and cancer-causing pesticides are a serious threat to our community's health," said Nayamin Martinez, Executive Director of Fresno-based Central California Environmental Justice Network. "We're alarmed that County Ag Commissioners failed to do any evaluation whatsoever of the combined threat of multiple pesticide applications at the same time, or the possibilities for safer alternative pest management. Chlorpyrifos and carcinogenic fumigants should be the last resort, not the first and only."
The study focuses on the pesticides that are among the greatest health threats to residents of farmworking communities: brain- and lung-harming chlorpyrifos and cancer-causing fumigants. Nearly a million pounds of chlorpyrifos were applied in the state in 2016, including thousands of pounds within a mile of schools and daycares. Almost 42 million pounds of drift-prone toxic fumigants were applied in California in 2016, the most recent year of available data from the Department of Pesticide Regulation.

County Agricultural Commissioners reacted to the report with a creative array of excuses for their failure to comply with the law,  ranging from, in essence, "I'm not allowed to do it" (Santa Cruz and Kern)  and "I don't know how to do it" (Monterey and Kern) to "I am doing it, I'm just not writing it down" (Fresno).

They were joined in this handwashing by DPR, who said in a statement that "the scientific literature and guidance for assessing cumulative effects is still relatively new and has not been fully vetted ." 

What is not new, however, is the legal requirement for such an assessment, which derives from the California Environmental Quality Act of 1970. T he UCLA study team's previous research published in 2016 called out the need to develop such methodologies . Three years later, it is plain DPR has taken no steps to do so.

The Monterey CAC added that there are just so many hazardous applications, it would be too repetitive to follow the law, noting "it's the same pesticide on the same crop, in the same conditions over and over and over again ." He then told our Monterey Bay pesticide organizer that he had said to the media all he was going to say on the matter, and was moving on to more important things

Needless to say, for our community members, there IS no more important matter than making sure those charged with protecting public health are following the law, no matter how tediously redundant it might seem to the CAC.

Chlorpyrifos Latest: Yes, This Brain-Damaging Chemical is Still Used in California
Action Alert: Attend the Senate Environmental Quality Committee hearing April 24 for Chlorpyrifos Suspension Bill SB 458 
CPR members brave the rain to deliver a brain to DPR - a reminder of what's at stake

It's been more than 2 years since the US EPA defied its own scientists and reversed a proposed federal ban of Dow's brain-damaging pesticide chlorpyrifos. Since then, CPR has worked tirelessly to pressure California to end use here. While we've had some success, nothing short of a total ban will protect future generations from the devastating impact to the health and potential of California's youngest residents. 

This month, under pressure from the coalition, the Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) listed chlorpyrifos as a Toxic Air Contaminant, and last fall announced new interim mitigation measures that county agricultural commissioners can require as part of the permitting process. But these voluntary measures are not enough: We continue to demand an immediate suspension while DPR decides chlorpyrifos's fate, expected in April 2021.

Last week, an amended version of SB 458 (Durazo, D-Los Angeles) passed the Senate Health Committee. The bill would immediately suspend chlorpyrifos, and would permit its use in future only under conditions that guarantee no neurological harm -  a high bar that would appear insurmountable based on DPR's Toxic Air Contaminant Risk Assessment.

Meanwhile, on Friday the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the US EPA to end their stalling, giving them 90 days to issue a final decision on a federal ban.

You can help!
Is your senator on the committee? If so, please call and let them know you are counting on them to support this bill.
SB 458 will be heard next by the Senate Environmental Quality Committee on April 24 at 9:00am in the State Capitol, Room 113. All in-person support for the bill is welcome!

Organic-to-School Bill Unanimously Passes Ag Committee
ACTION ALERT: Attend Assembly Education Committee hearing April 24, or sign on to support the budget request

We're delighted to announce that AB 958 (Aguiar-Curry, D-Winters) Organic-to-School Pilot Program passed the Assembly Ag Committee unamended by a vote of 11-0. The bill establishes  the first-ever Organic-to-School pilot program at the California Department of Food and Agriculture's (CDFA) Office of Farm to Fork. The pilot will help schools purchase more California-produced organic food, offering up to 15 cents in additional reimbursement per meal for qualifying schools.

California farmers grow more organic produce than any other state. Despite this, many low-income California communities do not have an adequate food supply of their own, and many children lack access to fresh, healthy food.  School meals provide a primary source of food and nutrition for millions of California public school students, and are a major support for low-income families struggling to make ends meet. 

The bill gives priority to schools that: serve low-income students, serve agricultural communities, offer universal free school meals, or participate in the USDA's unprocessed fruit and vegetable pilot program.

School meals with organic foods offer benefits for health, the environment, and California's economy by increasing access to organic food for low-income children, decreasing pesticide exposure, increasing climate resilience, and supporting the organic market for California farmers.

You Can Help!
AB 958 will be heard next by the Assembly Education Committee on  April 24 at 1:30 p.m. in the State Capitol, Room 126. All in-person support for the bill is welcome!

Organizations, schools and farmers: email aljohnson@nrdc.org by April 30 to add your name in support of the budget request for AB 958.