email@example.com, 805-437-02367:15 p.m. PST November 16, 2016
About 175 people attended a hearing this week in Oxnard to tell state officials what they think about regulations that would limit how growers use pesticides near schools.
Farmworkers and their allies, worried about the impact pesticides could have on children’s health, said the regulations don’t go far enough.
“We get that pesticides need to be used to improve production, but we need to find a balance between that and our health,” said Felix Cortes, representing MICOP, the Mixteco/Indigena Community Organizing Project. “Because it’s the health of our community, the health of our kids that’s being put at risk.”
Farmers, and the groups who represent them, said they are already overregulated, and the proposed rules have no grounding in science. John Ferro, a local landowner, asked that officials try to educate people about pesticides.
“We don’t want to hurt people,” Ferro said. “We’re just trying to grow a crop. A pesticide may be very mundane, but it’s still listed as a pesticide.”
Proposed by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation, the guidelines would:
The hearing Tuesday night at the Oxnard Performing Arts Center was one of three being held across the state. Ten of the 12 campuses in the Oxnard Union High School District are next to fields, Superintendent Penny DeLeon told the audience. Among schools statewide, fields near Oxnard Union’s Rio Mesa High School had the highest levels of the riskiest pesticides, according to a recent report by the Center for Investigative Reporting.
A translator was on hand for farmworkers speaking in Spanish, Mixteco or other languages.
One of those was Santiago Rivera, who attended the meeting with his 5-year-old daughter.
Rivera, like others, was worried about the effect pesticides could have on children. But he was worried about the farmworkers, too. Instead of a quarter-mile buffer, he and others want a buffer of a mile around schools.
“I would like them to not spray when we’re working,” Rivera said in Mixteco. “Sometimes they’ll spray behind us.”
Before the meeting, George Toledano said growers follow the rules when inspectors visit but go back to spraying when they leave. Just last week, he said, a grower sprayed one block of strawberries while workers picked fruit right next to it. The workers complain, but when officials investigate the complaint, “everything is cleaned up already,” he said.
Growers countered that the proposed regulations aren’t realistic. Growers can’t know exactly what pesticides they’ll use a year ahead of time or even what crops they might grow because that depends on the market, they said.
“Requiring growers to identify all products they might use in the coming year is unreasonable,” said Renee Pinel, CEO and president with the Western Plant Health Association. “Agriculture is fed up with regulations on the backs of growers.”
Nor are the proposed regulations based in science, said Jeanette Lombardo, state president for California Women for Agriculture.
“We give and give and mitigate and mitigate, even when there’s no science,” Lombardo said. “It’s time to stand behind the regulations. It’s time to stand behind the science. … Pesticides are in everyone’s homes and everyone’s lives every day.”
If approved, the proposed regulations would go into effect in September.