DPR, AB 617 work with small communities to ensure pesticide safety

December 1, 2021 /

Kern County is one of the top pesticide users in the state. Shafter and Arvin are working with AB 617 and the Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) to enforce pesticide monitoring and notification systems to protect their community members and agriculture workers from the use of pesticides.

Dr. Karen Morrison, Chief Deputy Director, explains that DPR evaluates pesticides at the federal and state levels to ensure safe pesticide use. They work with labels to ensure safe pesticide instructions for use and protective equipment. DPR takes close precaution in the scientific knowledge of how pesticides can affect people and agriculture.

“DPR has a monitoring station in Kern County located near the community of Shafter as part of the AB 617 discussions about monitoring for a variety of air pollutants, of which pesticides have been recommended for inclusion in the Shafter steering plan,” says Dr. Morrison. “And I think Arvin is in the process of developing what they would want to include; so we have been in discussions with the communities to identify opportunities for additional monitoring as well.”

Byanka Santoyo, Community Organizer for the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment (CRPE), has been focusing on CRPE’s pesticide work and states that the community should have the same information that Growers to Growers have because it will notify the community 72 hours prior to the spray of pesticides. 

“Our system does not fully develop until we turn 25 so there is still a period of changes in your system— and being exposed to all these chemicals, there can be an alteration. [These chemicals] are also causing cancer for children which is very alarming,” says Santoyo. “Kern County is one of the highest in all the state with cancer closers for children and instead of going down we are incrementing every year for children cancers”

Santoyo hopes that the systems get replicated and that there is a lot support for the process. People don’t know that there are already systems in place and it can be replicated.

“It’s important for the commissioner that he should do this. If he wants to be a pillar in the ag industry he should create it. We have a system similar already in place in Shafter through the AB 617 and it’s something that we are trying to replicate here in Arvin and Lamont. There is money already allocated— there’s actually funds big funds ($250,000)— to actually pilot the whole study and he has refused numerous times in community meetings  “

Santoyo is proud of the community because the people have pushed hard for their voice to be heard. They have gone through about 150 meetings within a year to make this happen after community members have been affected for so many years. 

Estela Escoto, President of Committee for a Better Arvin, is in favor of local pesticide notifications and she believes that it will help the community and agriculture workers be safer and healthier.

Escoto believes that giving agriculture workers the tools they need to protect themselves from pesticides such as special masks and uniforms can also help them protect themselves from pesticides and other harmful chemicals.

“It’s very difficult because sometimes I think I need to work because I need to bring the necessities to my family, but we don’t stop to think about our future. That, maybe me working in the fields, I might live less than my family; or because I can get sick from my lungs, or I can get sick from cancer, and I won’t reach an age where I won’t be able to help my family.”

Escoto believes that DPR and AB 617 are going to be of great help to better the community of Arvin. The community needs to be informed and educated about how harmful pesticides can be. She is hopeful to soon have a pesticide notification system in the community of Arvin.

“Our goal as part of the notification system is to provide transparent access to information about pesticides that are being used near where people live, work, and play,” says Dr. Morrison

Community members can participate in the statewide notification system through upcoming public DPR workshops. The information for upcoming meetings can be found at https://www.cdpr.ca.gov/docs/pesticide_notification_network/ .

Santoyo can be reached at bsantoyo@crpe-ej.org and (661) 865-0458 for any additional help that community members may need based on pesticide help or questions.

Erica Murillo

Erica Murillo is a project coordinator and reporter at South Kern Sol. She was born in Bakersfield, California, and her origin is from Guanajuato, Mexico. She is a first-generation graduate from California State University, Bakersfield where she earned a degree in Liberal Studies with a minor in English. Murillo's first job was working in the fields picking grapes. She has been able to evolve and continue to grow within her career. She can be reached at erica@southkernsol.org.