Activists urge officials to develop pesticide notification system

June 21, 2021 /

More than 200 million pounds of pesticides are used in California each year, and with 3 million of those pounds being used within a 7 mile radius of Shafter, pesticides remains at the top of the list of pollutants of greatest concern to Shafter residents.

On May 27, 2021, activists with the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment (CRPE), the Central California Environmental Justice Network(CCEJN), members of the Shafter’s AB 617 Community Steering Committee (CSC), and Californians for Pesticide Reform rallied outside the Kern County Ag Commissioner’s office calling for public disclosure of pesticide application.

These local environmental justice advocates have urged Commissioner Glenn Fankhauser to release information about when farmers plan to spray certain pesticides so that they can warn nearby residents by posting it online.

The Kern County Ag Commissioner already works with two separate notification systems: a “Grower to Grower” system that sends notifications to nearby growers in order to avoid possible pesticide drift accidents and a “Pollinator” notification system that includes bee handlers and possible growers who will apply pesticides.

Despite these notification systems being approved by the Shafter AB 617 CSC, there are no local notification systems for the frontline communities in Shafter.

“The community request is simple,” Kern County CCEJN Coordinator Gustavo Aguirre Jr. explained via email. “Of the hundreds of pesticides used in Shafter on a yearly basis, the community wants to be notified of just a hand full of ‘restricted use’ pesticides.”

Restricted use pesticides are pesticides that need a permit of use from the CAC in order to apply, according to Aguirre.

In 2018, the Valley Air Pollution Control District an California Air Resource Board (CARB) approved the Community Emissions Reduction Program (CERP) in Shafter. The focus of this program was to reduce exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5), toxic air contaminants (TAC), and oxides of nitrogen (NOx).

Now, more than 400 days since its approval, the community has yet to be introduced to any kind of notification system due to Commissioner Fankhauser’s refusal to create one. In its place, he has suggested notifying the community by hanging door hangers on residences located within 200 feet of planned chemical applications in or around Shafter.

As the standoff between Shafter residents and Commissioner Fankhauser continued into December 2020, the Department of Pesticide Regulation intervened, ordering the Ag Commissioner to publicly share advance notice of pesticide applications in Shafter as part of the state’s commitment to reduce local sources of air pollution.

Despite this intervention, however, Commissioner Fankhauser’s stance on the notification system hasn’t wavered, and he still refuses to implement a Shafter-specific notification system that he believes could potentially be misused by pesticide use opponents.

Now, the state of California is moving forward with a statewide process to set up a notification system similar to the one Shafter residents had been asking for by 2024.

“Gov. Newsom devoted in his recent budget a $10 million investment toward developing a State-Wide Pesticides Notification System, which is great,” Aguirre Jr. continued via email. “But we need to prioritize the local notification system that has already been approved and has an investment of 250,000 from state agencies.”

In an attempt to persuade Commissioner Fankhauser to develop this system, environmental justice advocates have sent a delegation to the Kern County Ag Commissioner’s office. In addition, a petition imploring the Department of Pesticide Regulation to require County Agricultural Commissioners to publicly post online all Notices of Intent to use pesticides that are classified as restricted materials can be found here: https://www.pesticidereform.org/notification/