Pictured: The spraying equipment typically used to apply pesticides to orchards in Ventura County. Photo from County Agricultural Commissioner report on violation.
by Kimberly Rivers
The office of the Ventura County Agricultural Commissioner (VCAC) has confirmed that VC Foliar, a Ventura-based company, has been fined $4,000 for two violations related to state laws governing pesticide spraying after its spraying of citrus orchards in Ojai resulted in pesticides drifting onto a neighboring residential property.
“A recent investigation in Ojai found pesticide drift off target,” said Deputy Agricultural Commissioner Andy Calderwood, responding to the VCReporter via email on June 30.
“Toxic pesticide drift is real,” said Rebecca Tickell, a resident of Ojai and part of a group called Regenerate Ojai that is working to eliminate pesticide use in the Ojai Valley. “There is now science from our community to back up what residents already know and experience to be true.”
The investigation began as a result of a complaint received by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR) on April 3, 2020, of spraying on McNell Road between Grand Ave. and Highway 150. The spraying was reportedly drifting onto a neighboring residential property.
The investigation was conducted by Alec Thille, agricultural inspector/biologist associated with the VCAC’s office. According to the investigation report, Thille interviewed the sprayer, Robert Davis III, owner of VC Foliar, multiple times regarding spraying that took place April 1-3. In those interviews, Davis stated he had not tested wind speed prior to spraying but had relied on the lack of movement of the blades of “fixed air circulating fans” to determine that wind speed was under 15 mph, the threshold for when spraying is allowed.
Thille also collected samples of foliage from ornamental plants and oak trees on the residential property next to the orchard. Lab testing revealed that all samples collected contained the active ingredient in the pesticide and the gradient pattern of increasing exposure nearing the sprayed orchard indicates the source of the pesticide. Thille eliminated other sources through checking spraying schedules from nearby orchards.
The notice states that VC Foliar sprayed a pesticide called Danitol® and IAP Summer 415 Spray Oil using an “air blast sprayer to citrus orchards,” and that Davis “failed to measure the wind speed on the upwind side of the field prior to application as required by the Danitol label.” In addition, “VC Foliar applied the pesticides when wind favored drift off target, when there was a reasonable possibility of the contamination of non-target property or persons not involved with the application process, resulting in pesticide residues detected on a private residence immediately north of the application site.”
Davis has 20 days from the date of receipt of the notice to indicate if he will appeal. He did not respond by press deadline to requests for comment.
The June 17 VCAC notice of violation states, “Foliar samples collected by VCAC confirmed that Danitol did drift off target, leaving residue of fenpropathrin, the active ingredient [in] Danitol, on all samples taken from the residence.”
State law (CCR Section 6614) and label requirements require wind speed be measured just before application during ground application and that application is only done when wind direction “favors on-target deposition.” The notice of violation states that spraying took place “when wind was blowing from the treated orchard to the northeast, toward the residence.” This created a situation with a “reasonable possibility of contamination of nontarget private property and of persons not involved in the application process.”
The $4,000 fine is a result of two Class A violations. Fines can range from $700 to $5,000. Sprayers may expect higher fine amounts during the pandemic as direction from the state is supporting county agricultural commissioners to strongly enforce all existing laws to protect public health.
Ventura County Agricultural Commissioner Ed Williams told the VCReporter ????when???? that he is strongly encouraging all growers to notify all neighboring residents about any spraying near homes even though it is not legally required and that violations of spraying regulations are being taken very seriously.
Williams did confirm the CDPR’s declaration that violations of pesticide spraying regulations that occur near homes and schools will be viewed as a “Class A” violation resulting in maximum penalties.
On May 26, Williams, issued a letter to all growers in the county emphasizing existing notification rules (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 3, § 6692.) that require growers who are spraying properties within 14 miles of school sites to provide an annual list of pesticides that are expected to be used from July 1 to June 30 of the following year.
Williams also cited the DPR’s statement encouraging all county agricultural commissioners “to have growers provide appropriate notices to nearby residents, to the extent feasible,” which “encourages good neighbor communication practices to residents, families and schools, during the COVID-19 emergency.”
HISTORIC ACHIEVEMENT FOR CALIFORNIA
EVERY HOME IS A SCHOOLHOUSE
REGENERATE OJAI BREAKING NEWS
On April 23rd, with the support of the Environmental Law Foundation and the Environmental Working Group, members of Regenerate Ojai sent a letter to Governor Gavin Newsom requesting that he make Every Home a Schoolhouse while Stay at Home Orders are in place and children are remote learning. There was overwhelming support from the Ojai community; over 1,000 locals signed on. An additional 3,500 signatures were collected by the Environmental Working Group, which also advocated on behalf of this issue.
Today we praise Governor Newsom, because not only did he hear the request to protect our children and community during COVID-19, he took a bold stand to protect all Californians both now and into the future. For the first time ever, the Department of Pesticide Regulation is in charge of ensuring that Agriculture Commissioners do their jobs to protect people, not just conventional agriculture.
This is an historic moment for California’s residents and a milestone in the journey toward growing food regeneratively and away from chemical-based agriculture. Through agricultural practices that regenerate our soils, farmers and growers store can more water in the ground, leading to healthier crops and eventually higher profits. Healthy soils also store more carbon. By making our top priority the health of people and the earth we walk on, we can actually transform our valley and all of California into a more profitable, safe and diverse agricultural land.
Below is a link to the new guidelines from the California Department of Pesticide Regulations. Our County Agriculture Commissioner has been strongly encouraged to create a notification system to let residents know what will be sprayed and when.
Pesticide applications are expressly prohibited when there is a “reasonable possibility of contamination of the bodies or clothing of persons not involved in the application process. A pesticide may not be applied except in a manner that is careful and that prevents drift.”
Governor Newsom also recommends that we all download California’s CASPIR App (free for iPhone and Android) to diligently report pesticide overspray.
If you see pesticides being sprayed, first and foremost STAY SAFE and KEEP YOUR DISTANCE. But also document what you are seeing by taking a video with your phone (turn your phone horizontally) and open your weather app and take a screenshot of the wind direction and speed as well as the time. Take note of the location where the spraying is happening and if there are any people or animals in the direct line of any possible drift.
It is time that we work together to create a notification program so that residents can be notified prior to any spraying of pesticides or herbicides. Talk to your farming neighbors, let them know that you would like to be given advance notice so that you can protect yourself and loved ones.
Your voices have been heard. Democracy is at work.
On this Mothers’ Day, we honor each of you and are proud to be a part of Regenerate Ojai where our mission is to Regenerate and take care of our “big mama” – Mother Earth.
Thank you to co-signers Adam Vega with Californians for Pesticide Reform, Steve Sprinkel and Olivia Chase for providing our community with regenerative food made with love at Farmer & the Cook, Patty Pagaling for her years of effort toward the Transition to Organics, Anna Getty and Bill & Eliza Moses for being active in this shift towards Regenerative Agriculture. Thank you to Diane Ladd for being a powerful voice in our community. In honor of Cindi Gould, who passed away from ALS after moving to the East End amidst heavy Danger Label Pesticide spraying and all those that have suffered from exposure to drift.
On Earth Day 2020, a request letter was delivered to Governor Newsom on behalf of Regenerate Ojai and the residents of the Ojai Valley: to use his powers to immediately extend the prohibition and restrictions on pesticide application near schools to all of our homes, because during the COVID Stay-at-Home Orders, every home is a schoolhouse.
ASK GOVERNOR NEWSOM TO PROTECT OUR CHILDREN BY EXTENDING THE RESTRICTIONS ON PESTICIDE APPLICATION NEAR SCHOOLS TO ALL OF OUR HOMES:
Actara, Danitol, Abamectin, Neonicotinoids, and Pyrethroids are all being sprayed in our valley. These Danger and Warning label toxic synthetic chemicals are promoted as “safe,” despite scientific evidence of their harm to our health and the environment. Most of these chemicals’ warning labels state that they can be fatal if inhaled or swallowed. We have the highest application of these chemicals per acre and per capita of any county in California.
Hundreds of peer-reviewed studies link these pesticides to harmful and sometimes fatal health effects. Our concern is not “hysteria” as some farmers have said of our movement in the local papers. Our concern is based on facts and science.
The “spraying season” is underway right now. The law states that farmers must not spray these pesticides and herbicides within ¼ mile of schools during school hours, and yet today while our children are schooling from home – farmers are spraying these neurotoxins with no regard for how these pest and weed-killing neurotoxins will affect us, our children and pets.
The law states that farmers must not spray when the wind is over 5 mph, but in the last year we have received countless videos of farmers doing just that.
Like the rest of us, one Ojai East End resident was at home two weeks ago with her husband and children when she heard a WWII-era fan sprayer blasting pesticides 30 feet up into the air with winds blowing at 8mph. Danitol, a lethal chemical linked to Parkinson’s, ALS, seizures and death in dogs, was being sprayed along her fence line, right next to their backyard. They immediately noticed red eyes, headaches, sore lungs and runny noses.
When she reported this to the Ventura County Ag Commissioner, they said that the farmer was within their right to spray and wanted to know if she uses chemical bleach or disinfectant. They suggested that her five daylong migraine and respiratory issues were due to anxiety and dehydration. Despite the fact that every house is a school during these days of the coronavirus, the Ag Commissioner’s office replied that, “the regulations restricting pesticide applications near schools applies to state-licensed child care facilities and public K-12 schools. Under the statewide shelter-in-place order, no public K-12 school is in operation. The regulation does not apply to private/homeschools or Family Day Care homes; and the shelter-in-place order does not alter the scope of this regulation to include them.”
This needs to change right now, amendments to laws are meant for times like these.
Drift doesn’t adhere to the agreed upon borderlines between farms and homes, or farms and schools, which are all mixed together in our valley. Drift affects us all and represents the modern day asbestos, Teflon, or the idea of smoking being safe or drinking while pregnant; all outdated and dangerous. In 20 years, we will look back and see this as our silent spring!
Over 1300 people in our community signed Regenerate Ojai’s petition requesting that farmers notify residents of the use of the chemicals before they are sprayed, but the farmers and county have refused despite our modern day technology making alerts very easy to do for the local community. One of the benefits of having an alert 1-2 days before a neighboring farm is spraying, is residents have the option to leave the valley to protect themselves from drift. Currently residents have no alert and no ability to leave, forcing them to be exposed against their will.
It’s time we prioritize our children’s health. It’s only through your action that we can ensure our safety and the well being of our beautiful valley.
Please sign our petition and spread the word to encourage Governor Newsom to be the hero to protect our families, and especially our children.
For Immediate Release: May 8, 2020
Adam Vega, 805-312-6875, firstname.lastname@example.org
Patty Pagaling, 805-646-4294, email@example.com
“Every home is a school”: State orders counties to protect children learning at home from pesticide exposure
Ojai, CA: Counties should use their full authority to guarantee the same protections from pesticide exposure at home that are already legally required for schools – and be prepared to back it up with stiff fines. That’s according to new executive guidance issued Thursday by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation. The guidance reminds county agricultural commissioners that a 2018 regulation restricting drift-prone pesticide applications during the school day was intended to protect children from exposure in their place of learning. Now that every home is a potential school, that order applies much more broadly.
The order directs county agricultural commissioners to “take a strict approach to assessing penalties,” noting that “violations that occur near homes or schools during the emergency should be considered “Class A” violations and should carry fines at the top of the range.” The order was welcomed by community members in California’s agricultural regions who have long called for greater protections at home.
“Here in Ojai, there is growing concern about widespread pesticide use near our homes. Our local coalition recently appealed to the governor to grant extra protection for children sheltering in place in their homes during this emergency,” said Patty Pagaling, executive director of Ojai-based Transition to Organics. “We are grateful to the administration for this bold action. We’d say to all Californians, if there’s a pesticide application near your home, you should report it to your county agricultural commissioner.”
The order reminds County Agricultural Commissioners that they are required to consider the potential impact of an application on homes where children are present before issuing any permit to use pesticides classified as Restricted Materials. Protections for schools are still in place, in recognition of the continued role schools play as centers of community, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This order recognizes the extraordinary importance of schools in the current crisis, especially for ensuring children don’t go hungry,” said Adam Vega, coordinator of the Ventura County Coalition Advocating for Pesticide Safety. ”The protections in place for schools and daycares must be preserved and extended so that children aren’t harmed by hazardous pesticide exposure. Right now, every home is a school.”
In the current crisis, farmworkers have been reclassified as “essential workers” who risk their lives and health to keep America fed. But preliminary studies have shown that COVID-19 mortality is higher for people living with high levels of air pollution, which includes farmworking communities throughout California. The San Joaquin Valley, where much of the nation’s produce is grown with vast pesticide inputs, has some of the nation’s worst air quality. COVID-19 also poses the highest risk to people with preexisting respiratory conditions such as asthma. Pesticides are known to be a major contributor to the epidemic of childhood asthma in the San Joaquin Valley, where the rate is 1 in 6.
While public health advocates applauded the order’s intent, there is broad concern about how well it will be enforced. “This order reminds County Agricultural Commissioners of their pre-existing obligation to protect children and other vulnerable populations,” said Sarait Martinez, organizing director with the statewide coalition Californians for Pesticide Reform. ”What we really need in order to make it stick is advance warning to families before the most hazardous pesticides are used nearby. It’s crazy that Californians don’t have this information.”
Californians for Pesticide Reform is a diverse, statewide coalition of over 190 member groups working to strengthen pesticide policies in California to protect public health and the environment. Member groups include public and children’s health advocates, clean air and water groups, health practitioners, environmental justice groups, labor, education, farmers and sustainable agriculture advocates from across the state. Ventura County Coalition Advocating for Pesticide Safety (VC CAPS) is a member of the CPR network.
In 2016, we were privileged to have Vandana Shiva speaking at the Ojai Earth Day event at Oak Grove School. Listen to at least the 1st two minutes…
2/1/20: 985 Fordyce, Ojai. Poisons sprayed across from residence of elderly doctor with Parkinson’s.
Several people have sent photos and videos of Danitol and other toxic synthetic chemicals being sprayed each week during school hours while children are at home doing remote learning in Ojai. These sprays have been applied immediately next to the homes of the families that have emailed us.
The EPA hazard label says that Danitol is a “hazard to humans and domestic animals”. It states that Danitol can be “fatal if swallowed” and if inhaled to “call a poison control center”.
The Agricultural Commissioner’s office responded when a resident on the East End of Ojai notified them that their family had headaches and sinus issues after Danitol was sprayed on their property line. The Ag Commissioner’s office stated that the regulation that mandates a 1/4 mile buffer zone to protect children while in school “does not apply to private/homeschools”, and that “the shelter-in-place order does not alter the scope of the regulation” to include children at home receiving remote-learning.
The Agricultural Commissioners office also acknowledged that the spray of pesticides “does exceed the height of the trees”, but that “this is not unusual”.
Visit Regenerate Ojai: https://www.regenerateojai.com/
ACP treatment protocols for Ventura County
The following treatment protocols have been developed for Ventura County commercial citrus growers by Dr. Beth Grafton-Cardwell of the University of California’s Kearney Agricultural Center, in collaboration with local pest-control advisers and applicators.
The goal of the treatment strategy in Ventura County is to achieve local eradication, keep the pest from spreading to other areas and forestall establishment of ACP for as long as possible. For maximum effect, the strategy requires the use of broad-spectrum, long-residual materials, which is why pyrethroid insecticides are recommended. Whether conventional or organic, coordinated and timely treatment of all properties within a treatment zone is necessary to achieve an “area effect” and prevent insects in untreated groves from repopulating neighboring groves that have been treated.
Note: The current treatment zone extends 800 meters from any ACP detection site. In the event that your grove falls within a treatment zone, you will be contacted by the Task Force’s Grower Liaison (firstname.lastname@example.org), who is responsible for confirming that treatment has been completed. Ventura County packinghouses will not pick or pack fruit from affected orchards until that confirmation has been received. Upon completion of treatment, the grove owner or manager must notify the Grower Liaison by email, providing the ranch name, treatment date, crop, acres treated, materials used, and the rate and spray volume.
Conventional spray program within Asian citrus psyllid treatment zones
Ventura County commercial citrus
ACP-effective insecticides for second treatment
Materials in red are broad-spectrum, and have greater effect and/or last longer than softer materials shown in black. Avoid using an insecticide with the same mode of action more than once a year. Although registered for use in citrus, some of these materials do not list Asian citrus psyllid on their label. Check the MRL status of each product you may use for the countries where your fruit may be marketed.
Organic Spray Program within Asian citrus psyllid treatment zones
Ventura County Commercial Citrus