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Former Farm Lobbyist to Run Pesticide Department
(Beyond Pesticides, September 21, 2004)
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on Friday appointed a former agriculture lobbyist to become the state's top pesticide regulator, according to the LA Times. The appointment of Mary-Ann Warmerdam came despite complaints from environmentalists about her ties to the farm lobby and the pesticide industry that she would now police.

Warmerdam is expected to take over the Department of Pesticide Regulation next month, the LA Times reports. She is currently a lobbyist for Pacific Gas & Electric, but worked for nearly two decades for the California Farm Bureau Federation, from 1981 to 2001.

Pesticide reform advocates addressed the issue when top-level members of nine environmental groups wrote a letter to Governor Schwarzenegger asking him to delay Warmerdam's appointment, stating that she did not have a record of evaluating pesticides or state and federal pesticide laws. They also questioned the appointment of someone "who has a long history with the California Farm Bureau Federation — an organization that has a long tradition in California of fighting efforts to protect public health and the environment from pesticide use."

Despite the severe conflict of interest, Schwarzenegger said he is confident Warmerdam "will continue to maintain California's high standards of protection for both the environment and human health." The governor's office said Warmerdam would not be available for comment, according to the LA Times.

Warmerdam had originally planned a meeting with environmentalists to discuss concerns, which was scheduled for August 17. However, the meeting was cancelled after the environmentalists’ letter was published in the LA Times, according to Bill Magavern, a lobbyist with the Sierra Club.

For now, environmentalists are holding off from formally opposing the former lobbyist’s confirmation by the State Senate and will wait to judge her actions in office. "At that point we will make a decision based on her performance in office rather than her prior history," Magavern said. "We're not saying just because she worked for the Farm Bureau that she must be bad. It just kind of raises caution."

Among the pesticide issues on which environmentalists will be evaluating Warmerdam, are pesticide drift, farmworker health, and reformed pesticide use in “sustainable” agriculture.

TAKE ACTION: Contact Gov. Schwarzenegger to let him know your concerns about Warmerdam’s appointment. You can write to him at State Capitol Building, Sacramento, CA 95814, or reach him by phone at 916-445-2841, fax at 916-445-4633, or by email.