Q: What federal regulations govern the approval of pesticides for use on conventional and organic crops?
A: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) follows a rigorous scientific evaluation process to register pesticides for use in agriculture production to ensure they will not harm human health, non-target species or the environment when used according to label instructions. These evaluations consider protection of infants, children and other vulnerable populations as well as adults from the potential harmful effects of pesticide exposure. Organic farmers can use pesticides derived from natural sources and pesticides that include synthetic substances within the regulations of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Organic Program (NOP) if other strategies and cultural management practices fail to control pests and diseases. For more information, see: https://www.ams.usda.gov/rules-regulations/organic/labeling
Q: What is the role of the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR) regarding agricultural pesticide applications?
A: The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) authorizes state regulation of the sale and use of federally registered pesticides as long as state regulations are at least as restrictive as federal standards. U.S. EPA has given primary enforcement responsibility to CDPR to regulate the use of pesticides in California. CDPR has a comprehensive secondary registration process that must be met before a pesticide can be used in the state. CDPR often adds regulations more protective of health and the environment to a product label, and continues evaluating pesticides after registration has been granted.
Q: What is the role of the Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner regarding agricultural pesticide applications?
A: In California, Agricultural Commissioners are responsible for enforcing state and federal laws related to pesticide use to protect the health and safety of residents and the environment within their respective counties.
Q: Can Monterey County require more stringent rules on pesticide applications than the state?
A: Yes. County Agricultural Commissioners have authority, with limitations, to impose tougher restrictions tailored to local conditions.
Restricted use permits are issued for pesticides deemed to have a higher potential to cause harm to public health, farm workers, domestic animals, honeybees, the environment or other crops. With certain exceptions, restricted materials may be purchased and used only by or under the supervision of a certified commercial or private applicator with a permit issued by the County Agricultural Commissioner.
These permits are required for applications of fumigants, which are gaseous pesticides injected into the ground before a crop is planted to kill detrimental pests. Additional site specific permit conditions can be added however the additional rules cannot be so restrictive that they prohibit effective pest control.
Q: What is the process for securing a restricted materials permit to apply a fumigant?
A: Under a 1976 determination by the state’s Attorney General, a restricted materials permit is the equivalent of an environmental impact report if certain conditions are met. The permit application process allows the County Agricultural Commissioner to evaluate the site proposed for fumigation and surrounding properties to protect people and the environment, and to allow for effective pest control and public review of permits. The process determines what site-specific practices should be followed beyond the requirements on the product label, and what conditions are needed to minimize potentially adverse effects. Restricted materials permits are only issued to the operator of the property or his or her authorized representative, and licensed pest control business’.
County staff must follow a comprehensive checklist to ensure the application is complete. Detailed plans for each site scheduled for fumigation must include:
- Farm name, acres treated, commodity and pesticides to be applied.
- Aerial maps, which must identify neighboring properties.
- Measurements to neighboring properties.
- Identification of schools, parks, houses, public roads, occupied buildings, labor camps, lakes, waterways, wildlife management areas, habitats of rare, threatened or endangered species and other sensitive areas within one-quarter mile.
- Buffer zones: Areas around the perimeter of each application site that extends outward from the edge equally in all directions. Twenty-five feet is the smallest buffer zone distance allowed. All non-handlers, including field workers, residents, pedestrians and other bystanders, must be excluded from the buffer zone for a minimum of 48 hours from the time the application starts to when it is complete. All normal activities can occur outside the buffer zone perimeter without restrictions.
- Encroachment agreements.
- Emergency response measures if residents and/or businesses are within 300 feet of a buffer zone.
Applicants are asked if alternatives were considered, including non-pesticide treatments or non-restricted materials. The grower is required to complete Monterey County field fumigation work plan and submit for approval. The work plan must be approved by a licensed agricultural inspector biologist and be signed by the grower prior to starting the fumigation.
Additionally, prior to the start of the application, the certified applicator supervising the application must complete the fumigation management plan (FMP) and make the FMP available to inspectors upon request during the application process.
Denial of a permit requires due process, including an appeal hearing.
You can learn more about pesticide application permit conditions at: http://www.co.monterey.ca.us/government/departments-a-h/agricultural-commissioner/forms-publications/pesticide-use-enforcement-forms#ag
Q: What is the status of CDPR’s proposed regulation regarding additional protections for children and staff on school campuses built near agriculture fields when fumigants are applied?
A: On January 1, 2018, a new regulation was implemented that provides annual notification to schools about pesticides that may be applied within ¼ mile of a school. Through this website you can sign up to receive an email or text notification to learn when a fumigant will be applied near schools in the pilot project.