SACRAMENTO – The California Department of Pesticide Regulation announced Tuesday it has reached a settlement agreement with a Ventura County business that was found to have unlawfully sold hazardous pesticides on hundreds of occasions.
The agreement puts Fruit Growers Supply Co.’s pesticide dealer license on probation for five years. The probation conditions include a prohibition on selling or distributing restricted material pesticides, which are the most hazardous type of pesticides, requiring special licensing to buy or possess, and county permission to use.
The company is also required to safely dispose of previously sold and returned restricted materials, and file quarterly sales reports with the Ventura County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office.
Ventura Agricultural Commissioner inspectors discovered the violations while conducting routine fieldwork. They began encountering illegally obtained restricted materials and traced the sales back to the Santa Paula-based company.
The Ventura County Agricultural Commissioner’s investigation found that Fruit Growers Supply violated pesticide laws by selling the restricted materials to unlicensed individuals on 317 occasions between Jan. 1, 2019, and Nov. 4, 2020.
Over 200 of those sales were of products containing bromadiolone, a second generation anticoagulant rodenticide (SGAR). SGARs are used to kill rodents and can harm non-target wildlife like mountain lions, bobcats and owls that eat poisoned prey. In 2014, DPR designated SGARs as restricted materials and adopted strict regulatory requirements on their use based on exposures to non-target wildlife; the department is currently reevaluating SGARS to determine whether additional restrictions are needed. Recent legislation prohibits the use of almost all SGARs until the conclusion of the DPR reevaluation.
Fruit Growers Supply was also found to have unlawfully sold the restricted material weed killers paraquat and 2,4-D, and a fumigant called aluminum phosphide.
“Our inspectors took action to collect all of the illegally sold restricted materials last summer and have been working with Fruit Growers Supply Company to arrange for proper disposal of those materials. An environmental services company has been contracted to pick up and dispose of the restricted materials as of Friday, April 29. We will continue to monitor Fruit Growers Supply to ensure they comply with the law,” said Ventura County Agricultural Commissioner, Edmund E. Williams.
“We appreciate the partnership with DPR to send the message that this illegal and unsafe behavior will not be tolerated.”
DPR Director Julie Henderson added, “We protect human health and the environment by strictly enforcing all pesticide use laws and regulations in coordination with the state’s County Agricultural Commissioners. We appreciate the Ventura County Agricultural Commissioner’s urgent action in bringing these violations to our attention so we could swiftly and strictly prohibit the offending licensee’s sales of hazardous pesticides.”
Jose Luna, an employee of Fruit Growers Supply who supervised the Santa Paula location’s operations, also faces a license probation as part of the agreement for his lack of oversight during the illegal sales. The agreement prohibits Luna from working as a designated agent for a pesticide dealer during his three-year probationary period.