Courtesy Calif. DPR
SACRAMENTO — The state will proceed with stricter controls on the use of pesticides near schools and child-care centers despite push-back from growers’ advocates.
Beginning Jan. 1, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation’s new rule will prohibit many applications within a quarter-mile of public K-12 schools and licensed day care facilities from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, the state announced on Nov. 7.
This includes all applications by aircraft, sprinklers and air-blast sprayers and all fumigant applications as well as most dust and powder applications such as sulfur, according to a state news release.
The rule will also require nearby growers to provide annual notifications to area schools and county agricultural commissioners of the pesticides they expect to use in the upcoming year.
“As farmers protect their crop with pesticides, we have to make sure those children are safe and we have assurances that they’re safe,” DPR director Brian Leahy said in prepared remarks streamed online. He said the rule adds “an additional layer” to existing restrictions on pesticides near schools.
The rule comes after two rounds of public comments and complaints from farm groups such as California Citrus Mutual, which has asserted the requirements are unnecessary. CCM was still reviewing the final regulation on Nov. 7, spokeswoman Alyssa Houtby said.
The state had originally proposed a mandate that growers notify nearby schools and their county agricultural commissioner at least 48 hours before they spray. But the mandate was removed after Citrus Mutual and other groups complained last fall. The state also clarified that “school site” doesn’t include school buses and other vehicles.
Laura Brown, CCM’s director of government affairs, said earlier this year the group still believes the rule isn’t based on sound science and that it places an undue burden on schools to notify parents when there’s even a potential that pesticides could be used in the area.
The rule will impact about 4,100 public elementary and high schools and licensed day care facilities and involve about 2,500 growers in California, state officials said.
State officials argue the rule will set a consistent, statewide standard to augment local rules adopted by many counties related to pesticide applications near schools and day care centers.
In addition to tightening restrictions, the regulation is designed to encourage greater communication between growers and schools or early-childhood facilities, Leahy said. The communication could help schools better respond to potential drift incidents and inquiries from parents, officials said.