The Newsom administration has released a policy framework for eliminating or significantly reducing the use of controversial pesticides by 2050 in California.

The report, generated by a stakeholder-led task force, details actions targeting pesticides that pose the greatest threats to the environment or socially disadvantaged communities. Pesticides like fumigants, neonicotinoids and organophosphates fall within the priority parameters. Dubbed a sustainable pest management roadmap, the set of recommendations were nearly two years in the making and involved 25 members in the work group, ranging from academics to farmers, industry groups and pesticide manufacturers—alongside environmental activists and tribal members.

The document makes clear that group members sometimes had opposing views on the recommended actions and “at times struggled to reconcile their divergent thinking.” While the members have signed off on the final report, “not every member values any one of the goals or recommended actions equally.”

CalEPA Secretary Yana GarciaCalEPA Secretary Yana Garcia

Along with reducing pesticide use, the report prioritizes the need for state and federal governments to shore up investments in pest prevention, streamlining registrations and evaluations for new products and educating the public on existing safety standards. It also goes beyond rural issues, proposing new standards for urban settings, where nonagricultural uses account for as much as 55% of pesticide sales in California and up to 75% of the reported illnesses.

“Exposure to harmful pesticides carries risks—to our health and to our environment—and these risks are disproportionately borne by communities already overburdened by pollution,” said Yana Garcia, secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency. “We must phase out and replace the highest-risk pesticides, and the Sustainable Pest Management Roadmap is a bold, new plan to get us there.”

The report touts a more holistic approach to pesticide management, exploring alternatives to targeted pesticide ingredients prior to enacting a banning their use. Soon after taking office in 2019, Gov. Gavin Newsom fractured the state’s relationship with the agriculture community by ordering the cancellation of chlorpyrifos before the Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) completed an evaluation. Afterward DPR formed a working group to find alternatives to the insecticide. Among the recommendations, the stakeholders urged the department to expand the alternatives work group to develop a more comprehensive strategy that goes beyond one pesticide and addresses other challenges in research, cooperative extension and funding.

The group cautioned that “pest management’s complexity means there are no quick and easy solutions,” and that it involves balancing “agricultural productivity and profitability, regional ecology, community health, local economies, global trade systems, supply chain systems, and regulatory frameworks.”

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During a press conference on Thursday, state officials and work group members stressed that the roadmap is just the beginning of this effort. DPR is taking public comments for 45 days and will host a series of webinars on the report as the department begins to develop policies to build out the recommendations.

“We have a lot of work ahead to implement the approaches outlined in the roadmap,” said Karen Ross, secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. “The Sustainable Pest Management Roadmap recognizes how the management of pest pressures is strongly interconnected with resilient farms and ecosystems and the health of farmworkers and communities.”

DPR Director Julie Henderson, who began her tenure halfway into the roadmap effort, recognized that reaching the goals will require collection action across stakeholder groups as well as coordinated state-level leadership.

“My growers agree with the vision. We're wanting to use less pesticides. Nobody wants to spray,” California Citrus Mutual CEO and President Casey Creamer, a work group member, told Agri-Pulse. “This roadmap identifies things we can do together to help growers accomplish that goal. This responsibility is not just on growers.”

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