January 21, 2020
Healthy Schools Act has ‘no teeth’ for enforcement
California requires schools to submit annual pesticide use reports to the Department of Pesticide Regulation and notify parents of what pesticides they plan to use.
Yet when the Healthy Schools Act was passed in 2000, lawmakers withheld any regulatory enforcement from the act. The standard for training has also been well below the professional licensing requirements for the ag industry, requiring today just a two-hour online training.
At a DPR meeting Friday, staff scientist Eric Denemark presented trends he found from pesticide applications. Schools with high use rates, he said, are essentially shamed into changing their practices.
“If we can reduce the amount of applications,” he said, “we can reduce the amount of exposure.”
But the department does not track exposure and there’s no penalty for failure to report or send notifications, Riverside County Ag Commissioner Ruben Arroyo pointed out. The act specifically calls for “reducing children’s exposure to toxic pesticides.”
“We have no teeth in doing anything if the schools aren’t following the Healthy Schools Act,” said Arroyo, recommending the department instead collect data on actual exposures on school grounds. He said
the only remedy on enforcement would have to be a legislative fix.
On that note: DPR is required to report to the Legislature this year on the status of the program.
DPR staff scientist Eric Denemark, who manages the department’s oversight of the Healthy Schools Act.
The next flood could cost California billions in crop losses
All 58 counties and more than $600 billion in assets and infrastructure across the state are at risk of catastrophic flooding, including the world’s most productive farmland. The Central Coast and the San Joaquin River each put at risk about $40 billion in assets, according to the Department of Water Resources.
In a presentation to the Water Commission last week, DWR Floodplain Manager Michael Mierzwa explained that San Joaquin County alone could lose $1 billion in crop losses. Fresno and Tulare counties could lose up to $700 million each. Even when fields are bare in winter, flooding can limit a farmer’s access to the land to perform critical maintenance.
Mierzwa added that “the infrastructure to protect us from flooding is aging,” while land use is intensifying. The population is also growing and people are moving into at-risk floodplains.
Mierzwa pointed out that the problem of flooding, which was the reason DWR was formed in 1955, is being met with an insufficient amount of funding. It is one of many things that DWR's Headwaters to Floodplains partnership with local and federal agencies is seeking to fix.
Meghan Hertel of the Audubon Society with Becerra in October, after announcing a lawsuit against the EPA.
Becerra criticizes EPA on insecticide assessment
In a comment filed with the U.S. EPA last week, Attorney General Xavier Becerra argues the agency should perform more studies before advancing the insecticide flonicamid through the re-registration process. He claims the neonicotinoid would cause significant harm to bees and other pollinators.
In a press release, Becerra blamed Central Valley agriculture for the nation’s steepest declines in native bee populations.
Remember: Becerra often works in partnership with environmental groups when engaging on EPA issues, but did not cite sources in his comment letter. The advocacy group Beyond Pesticides claimed in May that the pesticide is more toxic than the neonicotinoid it is replacing.
Becerra asserts the issue is identical to a recent case with the pesticide sulfoxaflor. The Pollinator Stewardship Council and Earth Justice sued the EPA in September after it approved sulfoxaflor for several crops.
Perdue promises close eye on China sales
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says USDA will be doing its part to make sure China lives up to commitments to buy $80 billion in U.S. farm products over the next two years.
Perdue told reporters at the American Farm Bureau Federation convention in Austin on Monday USDA will be tracking export sales to China and reporting to the U.S. Trade Representative. The administration could impose punitive tariffs on Chinese exports if China fails to honor its pledges, and China couldn’t retaliate, he said.
AFBF delegates debating dairy reforms
AFBF delegates will wrestle today with new ideas to help dairy producers deal with the industry’s ongoing challenges. The delegates are expected to consider resolutions today dealing with reforms to the federal milk marketing order system, something AFBF has been working on for some time.
China’s ‘market conditions’ not a threat to ag imports
Chinese Vice Premier Liu He raised concerns among farmers when he said at the signing of the trade deal that the Chinese purchases of U.S. farm products would be “based on market conditions.” But Gregg Doud, chief agricultural negotiator with the office of the U.S. Trade Representative, says there is no reason for producers to worry.
“We don’t expect them to buy from the U.S. when the U.S. is more expensive … but that doesn’t mean that the commitment is any less,” Doud said. “The commitment is still a commitment.”
He said it:
“These new rules would wipe out salmon and other wildlife by allowing wholesale siphoning of water from Northern California rivers to a few agriculture operators in the western San Joaquin Valley.” - John McManus, president of the Golden State Salmon Association, in a CalMatters op-ed urging Gov. Newsom to sue over the new biological opinions and pull out of negotiations over voluntary agreements.
Bill Tomson and Spencer Chase contributed to this report.
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