The California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) will be able to step up pesticide regulation this year due to a significant increase in its 2007 budget, resulting in the largest availability of funding in fifteen years and more resources to direct to enforcement and education of pesticide laws.
DPR’s 2007 budget grew by $3 million, thanks to a law passed last year allowing the collection of fees from wholesale pesticide sales. DPR’s $69 million budget is fully funded by fees imposed on pesticide sellers and similar funds, rather than the state’s general fund. Until last year’s law included large-scale commercial sellers like Wal-Mart, Costco, and Home Depot, revenues were mostly derived from agricultural sellers. This is DPR’s largest budget since it’s inception in 1991, and is comparable to the inflation-adjusted budget from 2001, before California’s severe budget cuts.
Among other specific uses for the new funds will be the hiring of six new enforcement officials, and a four percent increase in enforcement funds to county agricultural commissioners. Grants will be renewed for the first time since 2003, potentially helping growers find alternatives to methyl bromide, an internationally phased-out fumigant of which the United States is annually granted usage by members of the Montreal Protocol (for more on this, click here).
DPR will also focus new funds to “develop mitigation measures, adopt statewide rules, develop better worker and physician outreach programs, and take pesticide product registration actions. Reducing farmworker illnesses, long a priority of California’s pesticide regulatory program, has also taken on new urgency with imposition of environmental justice requirements.”
“This budget will put us in the best position that we’ve been in for some time to help protect the public, the environment and the regulated community. We’re now getting to the point that we have the resources to enforce the laws,ï¿½” said DPR director Mary-Ann Warmerdam. “With this support, we’ll aim for zero — no more major pesticide incidents on the farm or in urban settings.” Roughly 50 major incidents are reported annually in the state.
Ms. Warmerdam went on to say that the department’s aim is to avoid bans on common and dangerous chemicals like pyrethroids and fumigants, and instead control usage to reduce the risks associated with them. To facilitate that goal, the new budget includes a new position to “evaluate mitigation measures for chlorpyrifos and pyrethroids pesticides.”
Environmental groups are reacting positively to DPR’s recent actions. “They are doing a pretty good job of putting the money where people think there is the most need for it,” according to Susan Kegley, senior scientist with the Pesticide Action Network of North America (PANNA). However, “Some things need to change in the way that people are applying pesticides if we are to get to zero incidents. We think the best way is to reduce pesticide use overall.”
Source: Los Angeles Times