Gov. Gavin Newsom is proposing a statewide system that would notify the public of upcoming pesticide applications, which may be in the form of phone alerts, according to the CalEPA head.
While the administration has been discussing the proposal for several months, the governor’s May Revise of the state budget, released Friday, details $10 million in taxpayer funding to launch the IT system. Accompanying the program is $25 million for CalEPA to engage with environmental justice communities.
“Those are the groups that we want to help, but often they don't have the funding in order to work with us,” said CalEPA Secretary Jared Blumenfeld (above) during a press call, adding that the notification proposal long advocated by environmental groups has been “a particular focus of the governor.”
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The budget summary suggests spray drift incidents have been occurring throughout the state. Despite strict state enforcement, “pesticide drift sometimes occurs during application and can harm the public, workers, environment and neighboring crops,” reads the report.
Industry groups have pushed back on CalEPA’s efforts to force the Kern County ag commissioner to comply with such a system. One concern was that it would encourage anti-pesticide activists to target and block farmers ahead of applications. The ag commissioner argued it would incentivize farmers to overreport applications, overwhelming the existing reporting system.
The proposal is certain to stir debate among valley lawmakers as the Legislature races toward a June 15 deadline for negotiating a budget. The Senate has already rejected the governor’s overhaul of pesticide fees.