OVER 5 MILLION LBS OF PESTICIDES ARE USED PER YEAR IN VENTURA COUNTY.
THAT’S THE HIGHEST PER ACRE IN THE ENTIRE STATE.
WE HAVE THE MOST KIDS EXPOSED TO THE WORST CHEMICALS OF ANY COUNTY IN CALIFORNIA.
Sign the Petition at https://www.regenerateojai.com/
SIGN THE PETITION IMMEDIATE RESOLUTIONS FOR THE TOWNSHIP OF OJAI
I. A moratorium on the use of all insecticides and herbicides on all land and facilities owned by the City of Ojai including: the parks, playgrounds city buildings, roads, right of ways, and all other city-owned infrastructure. (This moratorium shall include a voluntary 1,000 foot “no spray buffer zone” on all sides of these public spaces).
II. A mandatory 72-hour public notice system whereby growers within 1/2 mile of the City of Ojai are required to provide public notice via electronic means (technology TBA) 72 hours prior to spraying of location of spraying, what will be sprayed and in what quantity.
III. A committee will be established to determine locations for no less than 5 public air monitoring stations around the township of Ojai.
IV. A Healthy Soils Working Group shall be established with significant farmer representation to create guidelines and establish funding resources for growers who wish to transition to soil-health.
FOR THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA WE REQUIRE:
I. An exception for areas in the State of California for areas zoned “Rural Exclusive” to the preemptive clause in California Food and Agriculture Code Section 11501.1 which excludes California cities from authority to regulate pesticides due to Ojai’s “unique mix of unusual topographical features, altitude, inversion layer and air quality conditions.”
October 4, 2019 Letter to the Editor of the Ojai Valley News
SUE WILLIAMSON, Ojai
Re: Emily Ayala’s Sept. 27 letter, “Pesticides allow sustainable crops”It’s very disconcerting to read a local farmer’s letter accusing those of us suffering from the harmful effects of pesticide spraying in the valley of passing on “hysterical fear-based and nonscientific” information. Where is her scientific proof of the harmlessness of these poisons? Just reading the warning labels is proof enough to disprove her claim. She says there are many old farmers. How many have died? Why is breast cancer so prevalent in Ventura County? Due to the dominance of big pesticide companies and big ag, there have been very few, if any, studies done on the effects of massive amounts of chemicals being sprayed over the last 40-plus years on people, air, water, insects, wildlife, etc.However, we do know from local testing that people have very high levels of glyphosate, a very dangerous toxin, and that is just one of many examples of the harm to humans being caused by spraying. I personally have suffered painful symptoms of toxic poisoning here. No one wants to see the wonderful orchards of Ojai disappear. However, many have already transitioned to organics and there really are no longer valid excuses for refusing to do so.
In fact, it is required by law that alternatives must be tried before using these synthetic pesticides. Ojai is full of great resources to provide assistance to local farmers to make the transition.
The packed meeting on Sept. 28, which did include local farmers, showed how much people want to encourage those farmers still spraying toxic synthetic pesticides to start making the transition to organics. And California Department of Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross stated recently: “There has never been so many pieces going in the same direction. The opportunity to move forward together is here.” Scaling up regenerative agriculture models that strengthen carbon sequestration in soil, reduce water use and preserve biodiversity is now reflected in the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Climate Smart Agriculture programs. There are no more excuses for poi-oning your community. Let’s make Ojai a real Shangri La — together!
News from around the Ojai Valley
Published: Friday, 04 October 2019
Read more in the Ventura County Reporter article:“COSTLY GAME” | OJAI LOCALS CONFRONT PESTICIDE SPRAYING IN TOWN HALL MEETING
“COSTLY GAME” | Ojai locals confront pesticide spraying in town hall meeting
Pictured: Diane Ladd, actor and Ojai resident shows the mask she wears outside to prevent health impacts from pesticide spraying on citrus orchards around her home in Ojai.
Events and experiences are converging in the Ojai Valley, starting a groundswell response to an issue that has been marinating in Ventura County for decades: agricultural pesticide use.
“What the hell is happening? Of course the farmers are scared. I don’t want to hurt them, we want to help them,” said Diane Ladd, the 84-year-old actor and resident of the east end of Ojai. “That is our goal, but I’m not going to stand by and let them hurt me…it is a costly game they are involved in.”
Ladd is working with fellow community members organizing in the Ojai Valley to force a community conversation and action. Last Saturday, Sept. 28, about 300 people signed a petition at a town hall meeting in Ojai asking for steps to reduce pesticide spraying in the area.
In her office at her comfortable home, with her troupe of dogs at her feet, Ladd spoke about how she became acutely aware of the chemicals around her and how they are impacting her life.
“I’m healthy now, till they spray again. Do I want to take more antibiotics and steroids and be on the breathing machine again? No, I don’t. I’ve got work to do,” said Ladd, pounding her fist on the wood desk. She describes respiratory issues, scar tissue in her lungs and problems with her esophagus that required a procedure to correct. “I’ve got films to make, books to write. I’ve got a life to live and they have no right to interrupt my destiny.”
“I live here on the east side, and for years I did not pay attention. Of course I knew they were spraying,” she said with a subtle southern accent signaling her southern roots. Her home is surrounded by the orange orchards that make the Ojai Valley a picturesque place. She recalled an incident of spraying near San Antonio School a few years ago.
“A huge farm was being sprayed . . . and they have the sign on the ground of the skull and bones.” Ladd saw mist from the machine “rising and drifting towards the school . . . and the kids were all playing at lunchtime. So I called the school and said ‘get your kids inside, somebody is spraying poison.’” She couldn’t do more at the time — she was traveling a lot — and the incident fell to the back of her mind.
This summer, an incident with her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Murray, brought it full circle. “On June 7, I let my dog out for maybe 10 minutes at about 11: 30 [at night] to go pee and when he came back in it was horrible,” she recalled. “He moved like a train on a track and he wouldn’t stop. It was like a comet. He was terrorized . . . he had something on his paws. He was trying to lick it off and he was trying to climb the walls . . . We couldn’t stop him, my husband and I. Finally he turned over, with all four paws in the air, and had a seizure. Then he had a second seizure.” She called the veterinarian, “I got him out of bed and he met me at the clinic [ in Ojai ]. He put Murray in an oxygen chamber that saved his life.” She spoke with the vet by phone the next day to ascertain what had happened. After hanging up, “five minutes later I got a text from Rebecca Tickell . . . she sent a photo of a helicopter spraying . . . and said, ‘shut your windows and your doors — they were spraying yesterday and today.’”
“So we were at home, it was June 6, and a helicopter flew over our house,” said Rebecca Tickell, who lives off Cuyama Road in Ojai with her two children and husband, Josh. The Tickells are documentary filmmakers, focusing on environmental issues, but this was the first time they were experiencing something in their own backyard. “It was an aerial spraying helicopter. That morning we all started sneezing . . . our eyes got irritated, we were congested and honestly it made us feel a little confused, foggy, like it was hard to think.” She said they decided to “evacuate” to Santa Barbara. “As soon as we got to Ventura we opened up our windows and we stopped sneezing. That acute allergic reaction we were all having stopped. It was obvious we were having a reaction to the chemicals that were landing in our backyard. Literally.” Tickell said she reached out to neighbors, who shared a recent letter from a nearby grower.
“Our neighbors had gotten a letter from Barnard Ranch that they were going to be spraying,” Tickell said, noting that the letter was needed to protect her neighbors’ bee hives. “The last time they had done that they killed all of their bees. Well, our bees died right after that happened; we found a bunch of dead bees around our house.” Tickell wanted to know what Barnard Ranch was spraying. She was referred to a woman named, “Anita, at Mission Produce, and after I was hounding her to tell me what was sprayed, maybe it was three requests, she finally got back to me a week later . . . it was Timectin and summer spray.”
The letter from Mission Produce states that Timectin and IAP Summer Spray Oil are used as part of the “mandatory” spraying program. Summer Spray is listed as approved for “organic production” and is a “narrow range petroleum spray oil.” Chemicals used for pest control are mixed with various oils as part of the application process. Directions for application state that “aerial applications only when weather conditions do not allow ground application.”
“This is the annual time of the year where mandatory spraying needs to take place, the County is also conducting their spraying in the area,” stated Anita Lemos, vice president with Mission Produce in an email dated May 31 notifying Tickell’s neighbor about spraying scheduled for June 8. “Unfortunately, we have to spray along with the County.”
Timectin is the brand name of a product containing Abamectin, an insecticide approved for use on various crops including citrus and avocado trees. The manufacturer label states possible effects from exposure include “muscular incoordination, muscular tremors,” and that the product is “harmful if absorbed through skin . . . toxic to fish and wildlife . . . do not apply to water.” Regarding the potential for drift, the label reads, “highly toxic to bees…do not apply when weather conditions favor drift from target areas. Do not apply this product or allow it to drift to blooming crops or weeds if bees are visiting treatment area.”
“When I read that [text from Rebecca], I said, ‘mother of god, my questions just got answered, my dog got poisoned,’ ” Ladd recalled. She began to see evidence of chemical spraying all around her. “How much spray is going into the air of California?”
“Josh and I have a long history of working on these environmental issues, especially around pollution,” said Tickell. They were in Louisiana in 2010 in the wake of the British Petroleum oil spill. “Everyone was told, ‘it is safe, everyone come down there, swim in the water, it is safe.’ Then we come to find out after that it was not true, so many people got sick as a result of that. So this is not the first time where we’ve been in a community where pollution was happening and the people were told that they were safe, and the people knew that that was not the case. And this just happens to be literally in my backyard. So it’s a little different than it was in the past, its more personal.”
Town hall meeting in Ojai – Act local, think global
For the past ten years Ventura County joined with other citrus growing areas in ramping up pesticides spraying in an attempt to prevent first the arrival of the Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP), and second, when the bug arrived here a few years ago, to prevent it’s spread and stop the spread of Huanglongbing (HLB) a disease caused by a bacteria, which is transmitted by the ACP. HLB decimates citrus trees.
This summer the Ventura County Farm Bureau announced that a group of specially trained dogs had detected the deadly bacteria at farms across the county, including the Ojai Valley. This created a push by those agencies to work to get more growers to participate in the voluntary preventative spraying program across the county.
Activists calling for changes in conventional agricultural systems have responded with science data pointing to healthy soil as the answer.
“The answer is to maximize the diversity and strength of the life in the soil. When you have healthy, biologically alive soil and a healthy ecosystem, pests and disease-causing organisms don’t take over and toxic pesticides are unnecessary,” said Patty Pagaling, executive director of the Ojai based nonprofit organization, Transition to Organics. She is referring to data from Dr. Elaine Ingham, “a renowned soil microbiologist,” as a way to combat the spread of HLB using regenerative agricultural methods. Pagaling has been working in the Ojai Valley on this issue since 2008. “Biodiversity is the key to a balanced, healthy ecosystem. From a healthy regenerative ag perspective, it just doesn’t make sense to spray poisons into our air for us to breathe and into our soil where food is grown.”
Johnathan Katz, a citrus grower in the Ojai Valley who supports regenerative methods, described the increased spraying in response to the ACP as a “response bungled by the regulators of conventional agriculture,” and said the increased spraying has “made the situation worse,” because the chemicals kill the microbes the soil needs to be healthy, in turn making the trees more susceptible to disease.
After a broad discussion about the economics of agriculture, the need to grow for local consumption, and how soil microbes are vital for human health, Eric Cutter, a biochemist and a regenerative farmer at Alegria Fresh in Irvine, spoke about how he grows 60 different plants on “2000 square feet and feed[s] five families.” He pointed to some thick, dark soil on the table in front of the stage that was used in a demo showing how healthy soil holds water. The humus filled soil came from land farmed in Ojai by panelist Connor Jones, “That is black gold, you can grow anything in it.”
For more information visit www.transition-to-organics.org
Information about regenerative agriculture: www.ojaicra.org
Proceeds from the sale of Diane Ladd’s book, Spiraling Through the School of Life, are being donated to fund blood testing for those impacted by spraying. www.dianeladd.com
For information about the petition presented at the town hall, visit: www.regenerateojai.com
For information about the pesticide spraying programs in Ventura County visit: www.farmbureauvc.com/issues/pest-issues
Steve Sprinkel Letter dated September 10, 2019
Ojai Center for Regenerative Agriculture
10 September 2019
Steve Bennett, Ventura County Board of Supervisors
Ed Williams, Ventura County Agricultural Commissioner
John Krist, Executive Director, Ventura County Farm Bureau
Johnny Johnston, Mayor of Ojai
Greetings to all.
I hope by now you may have noted that State Senator Hannah Beth Jackson (District 19) will be a featured speaker in Ojai at the September 28th Town Hall Meeting titled Health & Pesticides, Climate Change & Transitioning to Regenerative Agriculture.
This meeting promises to be a watershed moment for the future of agriculture in Ojai.
Senator Jackson’s attendance notably improves the legitimacy of the effort of citizens in Ojai to educate people and thereby limit the volume of specifically named agricultural substances applied in our valleys.
The challenge to conventional agriculture has been a long time coming.
The purpose of this letter is to ask all of you to attend this meeting. I ask you to consider in advance a conscious, well-conceived response in advance to demonstrate substantive acknowledgment of the grave complaints the community raises.
After working here for twenty years towards transitioning more acreage to non-synthetic chemical production, I believe the dam has burst on public acceptance of the status quo. People are no longer willing to passively sit at home and be sprayed.
This time the core group of antagonists does not feature people so easy to dismiss as an organic farmer. It’s not that they are “media-savvy”. They are media. They are informed, and they understand how to use technology to be educated and to educate.
The Ojai effort is very much like others rising up nationally and internationally. Ultimately the circumstance will be a question of cessation or litigation. The effort to control the Asian Citrus Psyllid with Imidicloprid has failed. Arundo Donax survives no matter how many times we spray it with Roundup.
At this point, anyone willing to learn about our system of agriculture, especially the public sector-private industry relationship to chemical use, will conclude that initial and continued formal permission to use these materials was not merely unethical but criminal.
The concept of “regulatory capture” has now become a cliché.
Argumentation is moot. No one can prove whether or not the 70,000 annually-diagnosed cases of Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma are attributable to glyphosate. No one has to. There are hundreds of lawsuits and thousands of plaintiffs. Law firms are fishing for plaintiffs on prime-time cable TV.
Defense of the chemical status-quo in agriculture is unraveling and the prospects for 36,000 Farm Bureau members to dominate public policy are diminishing. We can’t argue about jobs we really have not cared enough about or a green farm-scape we adore though it’s beginning to have all the appeal of a super fund site.
I knew that one day some risk-assessment manager would have to conclude that their business concern would be exposed to legal liability by using these chemicals or condoning them. The entire University of California system prohibited the use of glyphosate because of this risk, following the first plaintiff victory. The tide has turned.
I think we need to call a truce before we fight. There is very little good will left for chemical agriculture after so many years of disappointment. Let’s plan for a different outcome we can all live with.
Health & Pesticides, Climate Change & Transitioning to Regenerative Agriculture.
703 El Paseo Rd, Ojai, CA 93023
Saturday, Sept 28th, 2019
Doors open at 2:15pm
September 10, 2019 Letter to Ojai City Council from Patty Pagaling, Transition to Organics
Sept 9, 2019
To Mayor Johnston and City Council Members,
We would like to invite you to a Town Hall Meeting to be held Sept 28th at Matilija Auditorium in Ojai, 3-6pm. Doors open at 2:15pm. Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson will be joining us at the event. We are asking that you all attend and participate.
From a report produced by Wishtoyo Foundation, Agritoxins: Ventura County’s Toxic Time Bomb”:
“Harmful and even deadly exposures can reach our farm worker community as well as our families. Toxic pesticide “agritoxin” use in Ventura County is polluting the air we breathe and the water we drink. Agritoxin refers to the toxic pesticides used in agriculture.”
“This report demonstrates that (1) some of the most hazardous agritoxins are widely used in Ventura County agriculture; (2) these chemicals are extremely toxic and have been linked to numerous adverse health effects, including neurological impairment, birth defects, infertility and cancer; (3) in Ventura County, the general public, farmworkers, children, and elderly are readily exposed to agritoxins; and, (4) agritoxins pollute our air, water, and soil.”
“Agritoxins can cause both short and long term adverse health effects in humans. Examples of acute health effects include severe headaches, blindness, blisters, diarrhea, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, rashes, stinging eyes, and death. Longterm (chronic) adverse health effects include birth defects, cancer, and immunotoxicity, as well as neurological and developmental impairment. Disruption of the endocrine system is another chronic adverse health effect caused by pesticides. Some pesticides mimic the effects of natural human hormones, especially estrogen and thyroxine.”
One of the toxic synthetic pesticides being sprayed in Ojai in the orchards, a pyrethroid insecticide, Danitol, contains fenpropathrin, is a dopaminergic neurotoxin, linked to causing Parkinson’s’ disease. It is also highly toxic to bees.
Exposure Symptoms of exposure to pyrethroid pesticides include: “nasal stuffiness, headache, nausea, incoordination, tremors, convulsions, facial flushing and swelling, and burning and itching sensations.”
Chemical WATCH Factsheet for Beyond Pesticides, http://www.beyondpesticides.org/mosquito/documents/SyntheticPyrethroids.pdf
This is just one of the dangerous products that are being sprayed in Ojai. There are people, including children, and animals in Ojai who are being poisoned.
A prominent lawyer that was contacted concerning this situation said that the first sign that a town is being poisoned is when dogs start having seizures.
We would like to meet with all of you to discuss this serious life-threatening situation that is going on in our county. We are asking you to protect the health and well being of the people you serve. The spraying of poisons in our beloved Ojai Valley must stop.
Ojai, CA 93023
The Good News is that there are healthy solutions.
According to Dr. Elaine Ingham, renowned soil microbiologist, the answer is to maximize the diversity and strength of the life in the soil. When you have healthy, biologically alive soil and a healthy ecosystem, pests and disease-causing organisms are not a problem. The link to one of Dr. Ingham’s videos:
Especially listen to section: from 11:58 to about 13:46
- Stanley Thornton, a colleague of Dr. Ingham, is developing a line of soil amendments, foliar sprays and microbes that he has used to bring dying trees back to productivity.*
- Uday Philar of Sequoia Bio Sciences (www.sequoiabio.com) in India and American collaborator John Peter Abt of Terawet (www.terawet.com), report that he has successfully reversed the greening disease.*
- Steve Pavich, with BioFlora (www.Bioflora.com), a long time organic farmer, is experimenting with a combination of nutrients that will prevent the disease bacteria (liberobacter) from establishing in the plant.*
*References: Healthy Citrus article in Acres, USA by Ron Whitehurst, May 2015
Transition to Organics
ph: 805-646-4294 www.transition-to-organics.org
Link to September 9, 2019 letter to Ventura County Commissioners from Patty Pagaling, Transition to Organics
April 29, 2019 Letter to Ed Williams, Ventura County AG Commissioner and State Pesticide Regulators from Adam Vega, Ventura County Coalition Advocating for Pesticide Safety (VC CAPS).
April 29, 2019
Ventura County Agricultural Commissioner Ed.Williams@ventura.org
RE: Request for meeting about UCLA report on Ag Commissioners
Dear Commissioner Williams:
On behalf of the Ventura County Coalition Advocating for Pesticide Safety (VC CAPS), I want to thank you again for meeting with us on March 7th and request another meeting with you to address the UCLA report on county ag commissioners, “Governance on the Ground”, at your earliest convenience.
In “Governance on the Ground,” the UCLA researchers found no evidence that county ag commissioners followed the law in evaluating environmental conditions before approving pesticide application permits; namely: a) safer and feasible alternatives and b) other pesticide applications at the same time or nearby which could increase health threats. We know that you were not the Ventura County Ag Commissioner during the period studied (2017), and we also know that the media outlets that quoted you may not have allowed for your entire responses to be heard. We want to understand how you are following the law in the instances addressed by the UCLA research. How do you evaluate alternatives and also how do you track and consider multiple pesticide applications nearby before approving or disapproving pesticide application permits?
In our last meeting, we offered numerous studies and examples of how recent chlorpyrifos use in Ventura County creates a significant risk of human exposure. We hope you have reviewed this information. Your and Mr. Lauritzen’s response last month was to provide data indicating chlorpyrifos use in the county has declined in the last two years. While this is certainly good news, these data do not tell us anything about the concentrations of chlorpyrifos applications at specific locations. Overall use does not tell us how much chlorpyrifos was used near any daycares, schools, residences, parks, or any sites near vulnerable populations. We requested the Public Land Survey section data, which contain the pounds applied within each square mile of the county, but it was unclear if you or Mr. Lauritzen could provide that. Would you please provide this data?
Also since that meeting, yet another major study was published in the British Medical Journal finding that any chlorpyrifos applied within 1.24 miles while pregnant increases the odds (1.13 and 1.27 with “intellectual disability”) of birthing children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
As the scientific evidence of chlorpyrifos health risks, especially the damage to babies’ brains, mounts; as US EPA scientists, the 9th Circuit Federal Appeals Court, both of California’s US Senators, and the State of Hawaii have called for banning chlorpyrifos; and as you appeared open to continued discussions on chlorpyrifos, we must call on you again to make three reasonable policy changes to help better protect our communities from chlorpyrifos harm:
1. Implement a one-mile buffer zone around schools and daycare facilities specific to chlorpyrifos applications. We noted that Imperial County denies ALL restricted pesticide ground applications within 1⁄2-mile of schools and ALL restricted pesticide aerial applications within 1-mile. We understood your response to be that Ventura County doesn’t need 1-mile chlorpyrifos buffer zones because interim mitigations have been successful and use is down. Again, we do not have evidence from you that there are no vulnerable populations within a mile (let alone 1.24 miles in the above
mentioned study) of chlorpyrifos applications. Multiple applications of chlorpyrifos in conjunction with other regulated materials near these sensitive sites pose a disproportionate cumulative risk to students and staff alike.
2. Give advanced warning of nearby chlorpyrifos applications to schools and daycare facilities. We understood your response to be that a notification system has to be a system that can be applied statewide and has to go through a bureaucratic process. We believe we have misunderstood, however, as Mr. Lauritzen himself implemented a much more complicated notification program in Monterey County for 5-day advanced notification of fumigant applications near schools. Clearly, notification systems do not have to be statewide. If the “process” you mentioned is a “pilot project” like Mr. Lauritzen’s, then we would be in support of a 72-hour advanced notification pilot project to schools and daycares in Ventura County.
3. Require growers to demonstrate they have used less toxic alternative pest management before resorting to chlorpyrifos. Your team suggested that recommending specific pest control measures is outside of your mandated job description. We would like to see a process in which farmers are able to receive objective agroecological recommendations for pest control. Pest management does not require pesticides, and even safer pesticides do not have to be named by brand. Our request is that the growers choose a safer method and show that they have utilized this method before you consider approving a request for chlorpyrifos as an option. That process must be documented, of course, in light of the concerns in the latest UCLA report. We would like documentation of the process for verifying that applicants considered alternative methods to control the pest before resorting to restricted use pesticides. We would like to have a better understanding of valid reasons used for rejecting alternative methods. As a community we feel economic arguments are an insufficient basis for rejection.
If we have misinterpreted your positions above, please let us know. We look forward to your response and to meeting with you soon.Sincerely,
Adam Vega, VC-CAPS Organizer
Ocil Herrejon CAUSE Organizer
Julie D. Martinez Indivisible Conejo
Barbara Leighton Gordon Clint
Ron Whitehurst/ Jan Dietrick Rincon-Vitova Insectaries
Danielle Montoya M.P.H
Monica Gray Get Fresh VC
Manuel Bustamante Food & Water Watch
Elizabeth Huggins Democratic Moms Of Camarillo
Tomas Rebecchi Food & Water Watch
Jonathan Horton Showing Up for Racial Justice
Sergio Solis VC MEChALucy Cartagena
Tiffany P. Lewis, Dem. Club of Camarillo 1st Vice Chair of VCDP
Elliot Gonzales Live From the Frontlines
Arturo Guido VC-CAPS
Jack Adam Weber
Olga Medina VC-CAPS
Damien Luzzo Live From the Frontlines
Maria Ochoa Child Development Resources
Michelle GouldPatty Pagaling, Transition to Organics
Dayane ZunigaVC CAPS/Creative Minds
Wendy LuzlandMartha Sanchez Martha.Sanchez@cdpr.ca.gov
Yana Garcia Yana.Garcia@calepa.ca.gov
Eric Lauritzen Eric.Lauritzen@cdpr.ca.gov
Ventura County Supervisors
Ventura County Grand Jury
Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin firstname.lastname@example.org
Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson email@example.com
Assemblymember Monique Limon firstname.lastname@example.org
Senator Henry Stern email@example.com
Letter from Jack Weber that led to start of Petition to STOP Aerial Spring in Ojai, sign the petition HERE
To Whom it Concerns,
April 3, 2019
On the morning of February 22, 2019 I awoke to the sound of helicopter/s. Forty-five minutes later I went outside to see what the commotion was about and saw a helicopter crop-dusting the orchards next door. The helicopter was flying fewer than 100 yards from me. I watched the spray drift in the breeze; it was not a still day. I quickly ducked back inside, mortified and nervous. What were they spraying I wondered? What do I need to do? Where is that spray drifting? Is it safe to be outside? And what about my clothes that were drying on the line? What if my nieces had been visiting; is it safe for them to be outside? And what about my belongings that were also outside and uncovered; would they be covered in whatever they were spraying? Who was there to supervise this spraying to ensure the wind was not too swift, to make sure the pilot did his job impeccably, given the potential danger of his pesticide application?
Too many questions and concerns for an innocent bystander, no?
Once the commotion ended, I called the Ventura Ag department the same day where a gentleman named Scott Wilson at extension #7143 handled my call. He told me that spraying from a helicopter is the same as spraying from the ground. I quickly debunked that argument. What was he trying to hide, I wondered, to make such an illogical argument? I asked to know what was being sprayed. He said he would look into it. Next week I received a call from a new hire from the Ag Department, who ended up passing me to her supervisor, Blanca at extension #7144. She confirmed that there was no one from the County supervising the spraying that morning.
Upon receiving the ingredients of what was sprayed, I noticed Actara on the list, a neonicotinoid pesticide. The active ingredient is thiamethoxam, which is banned in the EU due to its toxic and deadly effect on bees.
I understand the psyllid needs to be managed, and can’t we find a better way, and at the very least give neighbors ample warning and information prior to crop-dusting? It’s a travesty to use this pesticide when bees are in massive decline and climate change is wiping out insects in this 6th mass extinction event. Currently an average 60% of average animal species populations have gone extinct and we are in the midst of an insect apocalypse with up to 40% of insects worldwide threatened with extinction due primarily to industrial farming methods. You can read (about) the studies here:
It’s unconscionable to conduct spraying like this without notice and with this pesticide. Children are particularly susceptible to pesticides and there are not adequate safeguards to ensure their safety during such sprays, especially when there is some wind, as there was this day, and no third-party supervision. Nobody should be in the position I was in—wondering and nervous—without any information as to what to do and what was okay or not.
The EPA website about Actara states:
“This pesticide is toxic to wildlife and highly toxic to aquatic invertebrates.”
“This pesticide is highly toxic to bees exposed to direct treatment on blooming crops/plants or weeds. Do not apply this product or allow it to drift to blooming crops/plants or weeds while bees are foraging in or adjacent to the treatment area.”
“Do not apply directly to water, or to areas where surface water is present, or to intertidal areas below the mean high water mark. Drift or runoff from treated areas may be hazardous to aquatic organisms in neighboring areas. Do not contaminate water when cleaning equipment or disposing of equipment wash waters.”
Early spring flowers and weeds were currently blooming during the application; this means bees were present. More, the stream runs directly below where this spraying took place. Was this spraying in compliance with the precautions of this pesticide? Additionally, it rained five days after the spraying took place and there is abundant run-off down the road to the creek in this area. Additionally, what safeguard is provided to wild animals and birds that are under the spray jets of the helicopters during spraying? None that I can see.
I read the “Right to Farm Ordinance,” which indicates spraying of pesticides is a right in the agricultural area of Ventura County. Yet, a “right to farm” should not include a right to harass and place in jeopardy the wellbeing of unknowing residents. On page one, item 1b, the ordinance states that “agricultural activities frequently become the subject of nuisance complaints due to lack of information about such operations.” Calling the unsafe and irresponsible application of pesticides a “nuisance” is a mischaracterization and dishonest. And it’s not a “nuisance” because of lack of information; it’s a serious concern due to the health effects of these sprayings. The spraying itself is the true nuisance.
The County’s premise regarding such “nuisance complaints” is that “Such actions discourage investments in farm improvements . . . and the economic viability of the County’s agricultural industry as a whole.” What this says is that the County is willing to put the public’s health at risk for profit and favor companies that engage in such operations over the public’s health and wellbeing. I understand the desire for financial gain, but it’s time we start doing so responsibly, not just thinking about ourselves and our billfold.
Additionally, under item 1d it states “An additional purpose of this ordinance is to promote a good-neighbor policy by advising purchasers and users of property adjacent to or near agricultural operations of the inherent potential problems associated with such purchase or residence.” Yet, how does this clause ensure that renters and farmhands are advised? I was never advised of this upon moving onto the property. Regardless, this disclosure is not sufficient “good-neighbor” policy.
At the very least “good neighbor policy” should include a mandatory notifying of neighbors within a broad radius of the proposed spray date, the chemicals proposed to be sprayed, and an information guide to protect one’s person, family, pets, and especially sensitive individuals—regardless of what the pesticide label says.
More, the County needs to be present to supervise the spraying. I practice medicine and have a strong science background; I’ve treated pesticide poisoning. I know the dangers of pesticides, especially to those more vulnerable such as children and the elderly and those with asthma and compromised immune systems. Who is protecting such people during sprayings like this? Nobody. We don’t live in the Middle Ages or even in a Third World country where ignorant behavior like this was and is commonplace. I charge the county with negligence and demand a revision of the statutes to prohibit such irresponsible activities.
I finished my conversation with Blanca posing a hypothetical. I asked her, “I don’t know if you have children (she interjected she did), but how would you feel if you were outside minding your own business early one morning, enjoying the outdoors with your children, and all of a sudden helicopter/s suddenly appear overhead spraying massive amounts of an unknown liquid from nozzles on their wings? Would you be unbothered? Would you be concerned?” She was silent. And then said, “I understand, Mr. Weber.”
Thank you for your consideration, and I’d like to hear from you specifically about: 1) your willingness to get the ordinance changed to make notifying neighbors many days in advance mandatory 2) any violations that might have occurred during this spray given my description of events and label warnings 3) if you agree or are knowledgeable about the science that pesticides endanger the vulnerable population I describe above 4) what options we might work together to implement to comprehensively and mandatorily replace a neonic, bee-killing pesticide to control psyllid and other bugs and 5) the other points mentioned in this letter. Thank you.