The Department of Pesticide Regulation held a listening session last week to gather feedback for a draft regulation on 1,3-D, known by the brand name Telone. The department is proposing new restrictions on seasonality, acreage and setbacks from buildings. But farm groups were the most critical of a provision that would require intensive irrigation prior to applications.

“We're concerned about the impact that has on water resources during severe drought periods, specifically as it relates to the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act,” said Jacob DeFant, public policy coordinator at the Agricultural Council of California.

The regulation would double the existing soil moisture requirement, from 25% to 50%. According to DPR, growers can accomplish this by waiting for rain or irrigating with three inches of water for as long as three days ahead of time. DeFant reasoned that the irrigation timing would not line up with the typical application times for the pre-plant fumigant, especially since DPR would prohibit applications from November through February.

“Waiting on natural precipitation to meet the 50% soil moisture requirement could disrupt pest management strategies and therefore impact yields,” he added.

Joshua Rahm CWCJoshua Rahm, California Walnut Commission

Renee Pinel, president and CEO of the Western Plant Health Association, called for more flexibility in the calendar to be able to use naturally occurring weather events to achieve the mitigation standards.

Rebecca Baskins, a governmental advocate for the lobbying firm Kahn, Soares & Conway, stressed that 1,3-D is an essential crop protection tool for her agricultural clients, which include the American Pistachio Growers, California Fresh Fruit Association and Western Agricultural Processors.

“This increased saturation requirement will result in an inefficient use of scarce water supplies,” said Baskins.

A coalition of 17 agricultural organizations opposed aspects of the proposed rulemaking, calling them excessively conservative and not based on the best available science. Baskins also argued the setback distances proposed would be “very impactful” to farm operations and lead to untreated rows and other unintended consequences.

“Walnut trees are very sensitive to infection by root lesion nematode, and as little as one nematode per 250 cubic-centimeter of soil can damage walnuts,” explained Joshua Rahm, who directs technical and regulatory affairs at the California Walnut Commission. “Alternative treatment options [to 1,3-D] unfortunately are either not as effective, readily available, face challenges to control the pest pressures, or face regulatory hurdles preventing application.”

As Rahm concluded his testimony on how pest control advisors strictly follow state and federal regulations, DPR staff abruptly cut him off at the 90-second mark, with environmental activists shouting at Rahm to stop.

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The narrow window for testimony led many commenters to rapidly stumble through prepared statements and to advocates disparaging DPR for limiting public input. Dozens of activists showed up to the hearing, offering passionate pleas for environmental justice and labeling pesticide manufacturers as greedy corporations.

“Today I ask you to kill,” said Rocio Madrigal, a community outreach coordinator at Californians for Pesticide Reform. “Kill, kill Dow's profits. Don't kill our children and don't kill our communities.”

Jane Sellen, the environmental group’s co-director, reasoned that DPR is not going far enough to restrict 1,3-D because the department depends on revenue from the mill assessment on pesticide sales.

“DPR’s budget depends on the continued high use of pesticides, especially heavily used blockbuster fumigants like 1,3-D,” said Sellen. “This must change. Please go back to the drawing board. Revise your regulation. Use the latest science.”

DPR is currently reviewing the submitted comments and will consider revisions to the proposal before finalizing the rulemaking later this year.

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