‘Ministry of Silly Walks’ presides in California

Vicky Boyd
Vicky Boyd,

In the 1970s, the British comedic group, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, used to perform the “Ministry of Silly Walks” sketch where John Cleese strutted around in a satirical portrayal of bureaucratic inefficiency.

When the California Department of Pesticide Regulation recently began work on a statewide pesticide application notification system, Monty Python immediately came to mind. Gov. Gavin Newsom has made the system a top priority and has budgeted $10 million for development.

Although the scope and details are still being worked out, the department has said the network initially will focus on pesticides “more likely to move offsite or that have greater potential for health impacts.”

CDPR already has held several focus group sessions and public webinars to seek additional input. It was during one of the focus groups that a state official let slip the network likely would be expanded to cover all crop protection materials.

Following public input, the department will develop a regulation that defines which products are covered and how, when and to whom notifications will be distributed. If all goes according to schedule, the state plans to launch the system in 2023.

Monterey County, California, already has a notification system, which environmentalists used to try to stop a recent fumigation. And many producers fear the same could happen in their counties once the statewide system is operational.

California already has strictest rules

The proposed notification effort comes as California already has the strictest pesticide regulations in the nation. Before producers can apply restricted-use pesticides, they must complete annual training. Nearly all of the rice herbicides used in California are considered restricted use by the state.

Then producers must file a notice of intent, or NOI, with the county agricultural commissioner no more than 24 hours before application of a restricted-use material. Afterward, applicators must notify the ag commissioner within seven days of completion.

This is on top of the statewide mandatory pesticide use reporting for all materials. Each month, producers must report the products applied, rates, crops and locations to the ag commissioner. While some counties used to let slide tardy reports, ag commissioners have begun cracking down on late submissions.

For a product to even be registered in California, CDPR frequently requires additional testing and data submissions above those of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. State registrations also cover household cleaning products that claim to kill human pathogens.

That led one California producer to wonder whether the notification system will require him to alert his neighbors each time he plans to wipe down his kitchen counters.

Welcome to the Ministry of Silly Walks.

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