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Watsonville pushes for advanced public notice when growers use hazardous pesticides

Jack Dykinga / USDA

WATSONVILLE, Calif. (KION) Farmers in Santa Cruz County have to send an application to the Agricultural Commissioner to use restricted agricultural pesticides. There are about 40 of those pesticides that are considered the most hazardous growers can use.

“There have been tons of studies up the Central Coast, primarily in Monterey and Santa Cruz, of situations where there have been people exposed from far away applications,” Héktor Calderón with Safe Ag Safe Schools said.

Watsonville City Council supported the organization and passed a resolution this week urging the Agricultural Commissioner to post advanced notices on future pesticide applications online.

“The difference it would make is people could then go to the Ag Commissioner website and look up what sort of restricted pesticide they’re using," Calderón said. "Along with it, maps of when they’ll be applying [the pesticides]."

Agricultural Commissioner Juan Hidalgo said his office does not have the resources to post the notices in advance.

Hidalgo says his small office is flooded with requests from growers from June to October. The commissioner said California has the toughest regulations in country when it comes to pesticide use and over site with local agriculture commissions.

“There’s an entire process of evaluation and reviewing what the grower intends to use, and what commodity as well as the site they plan to use that pesticide on,” Hidalgo said.

Calderón and others argue adding the notice of intent wouldn’t take much extra work, and it would allow neighbors to do things to keep them safe like close their windows.

"Or keep children or vulnerable people who are really sensitive on their lungs or have asthma indoors,” the community organizer said.

The ag commission does work with Pajaro Valley Unified School District, and has added restrictions about using soil fumigants near schools. However, this public notice of intent can only be possible if the commissioner agrees to it, which at least for now doesn’t look like it will happen.

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Drew Andre

Drew Andre is a multi-media journalist at KION News Channel 5/46.


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