California farmworkers and farmers rally to limit pesticide drift

California farmworkers, farmers and regulators attended Spray Safe event in Tulare last month

@TheSunGazette

TULARE – More than 400 farmers, farmworkers and agriculture leaders gathered together in Tulare last month to promote the effective prevention of pesticide drift from fields to nearby homes and communities.

They gathered at the International Agri-Center on Jan. 16 to participate in Spray Safe, a stewardship program created for and by the agriculture community to prevent pesticides from accidentally drifting out of field and into communities. One of the event’s sponsors was California Citrus Mutual (CCM), the state’s largest citrus marketing and advocacy organization based in Exeter.

“The safe use of pesticides is a top priority for the citrus industry,” CCM president and CEO Casey Creamer said. “Educational events such as Spray Safe ensure the safety of our employees and the surrounding communities. We are proud to be one of the many agricultural groups coming together for the protection of our farms, employees, and communities.”

Creamer underscored that Spray Safe is “an example of the agriculture industry acknowledging a problem and implementing a solution proactively.”

It was the second such event in as many weeks after nearly 250 Central Valley farmers and farmworkers converged on the Fresno County fairgrounds on Jan. 10.

“Spray Safe reinforces California’s current pesticide regulations and requirements, which are already some of the toughest in the world,” said Renee Pinel, the president and CEO of the Western Plant Health Association, which was a sponsor of the event. “More regulations are not necessary, but communications need to improve to make sure farmers, farmworkers and regulators are all effectively communicating to ensure those regulations are being followed.”

Joined by prominent elected officials and high-ranking regulators, participants received training in drift mitigation, pesticide emergencies, and protection for pollinators. It also focused on making sure all involved in pesticide applications are effectively communicating and working in concert, said Spray Safe officials.

“The best thing about the Spray Safe program is that it empowers thousands of workers to speak out if they have any concerns about a pesticide,” said Hernan Hernandez, the executive director of the California Farmworker Foundation, a Delano-based organization dedicated to creating a better future for the state’s farmworkers. “Farmworkers need to know what to do in an emergency. It speaks volumes that today’s event was conducted in both Spanish and English.”

The event drew several high-ranking officials and representatives, including California Department of Pesticide Regulation Director Val Dolcini, Tulare County Supervisor Kuyler Crocker, as well as county agricultural commissioners.

“California has the nation’s strictest pesticide regulations, but it remains DPR’s highest priority to make sure all Californians are aware of the rules and are protected from potential harm,” Dolcini said. “Pesticides touch our air, water, and land. Today and every day, we’ll continue to ensure that these tools are used in a manner that’s both safe and smart.”

The event is one of many such Spray Safe classes conducted over the years.

“Programs like Spray Safe have trained thousands of people,” said Bill Hume, with Simplot Grower Solutions who helps lead the worker safety classes. “We always want to make sure we continue to keep farmers and farmworkers up to date on the latest technology, regulations and best practices.”

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