Big Ag, big pesticides: PAN update

Aldicarb, a pesticide classified as “extremely hazardous” by the World Health Organization into use, raising the risks of groundwater contamination, accidental ingestion with food products, and direct exposure to orchard workers and wildlife.

State updates

Hello from PAN’s California team!

Things have been moving quickly this legislative session, and we have a couple of key updates to share with you on items we’ve been busy supporting alongside partners across the state:

  • Earlier this month, the groundbreaking Food & Farm Resilience Bond Act (AB 125) sailed through the Assembly Agricultural Committee with bipartisan support and 10 votes! The bill, authored by Assemblymember Robert Rivas (D-Hollister), would finance a series of programs and capital investments supporting organic and other regenerative agricultural practices, rural and urban community-based food and agriculture projects, urgent improvements in farmworker and food worker safety and well-being, and expanded healthy food access programs. Unfortunately, following the Ag Committee vote, the bill got stuck in procedural conflicts between the Rules Committee and the Natural Resources Committee. However, things aren’t over for AB 125! This two-year bill will continue to move forward, and meanwhile the statewide coalition of organizations championing the policy is calling on California’s legislature and Governor Newsom to spend some of this year’s state’s budget surplus on a healthy, climate resilient, just food and farm system. Please visit the Food & Farm Resilience Bond Act’s website (available in English and Spanish) for more information and opportunities to get involved.
  • For years, California has charged a flat “mill assessment” fee for all pesticide sales at the point of first sale into the state. This mill fee provides about 80% of the budget for the CA Department of Pesticide Regulation, which oversees pesticide registrations and enforcement of pesticide use regulations. Governor Newsom’s proposed 2021-2022 budget features an increased, tiered mill fee that would place higher fees on pesticides of greater toxicity to encourage reduced use of the most harmful pesticides. This would be the first mill fee increase since 2004. PAN and statewide partners support updating the fee, but we’re pushing for key additions, including scaling up enforcement, support for farmers transitioning off the use of the most hazardous pesticides, and better community and ecosystem protections.

National updates

IPM in the spotlight: This month, major retailer Walmart made headlines for announcing a new pollinator health policy, requiring that all global fresh produce and floral suppliers adopt Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices, as verified by a third-party certifier, by 2025. IPM guides farmers to use ecological methods that support the overall sustainability of their land, and reduces pesticide use by requiring farmers to use non-chemical approaches to manage pests first, such as rotating crops, planting resistant varieties and fostering beneficial insects. PAN Senior Scientist Margaret Reeves shared that this move by Walmart was influenced by pest management standards for the Equitable Food Initiative (EFI), which she helped develop. EFI is a certification system which, in addition to these pest management guidelines, also includes food safety standards and ensures that workers are treated well and compensated fairly. As we remain hesitant to lift up corporate sustainability promises, the real win here is seeing IPM in the spotlight.

Aldicarb is back: Aldicarb, a pesticide that has seen minimal use in the United States over the past decade, was re-approved for use on citrus crops in January, after a rushed process that barely accommodated the legally mandated public comment period for chemical re-registration. The new registration will allow 100,000 acres of citrus to be treated with up to 2.5 million pounds of pesticide products that contain aldicarb. This will put a pesticide that is classified as “extremely hazardous” by the World Health Organization into use, raising the risks of groundwater contamination, accidental ingestion with food products, and direct exposure to orchard workers and wildlife. Read more here.


Take action

In an agricultural state like California, health-harming pesticides are routinely used on fields near schools, homes, and places of business. But the public isn’t notified when application occurs, or even what is being sprayed. This is wrong.

Tell the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) to ensure the public knows about nearby applications of the most hazardous agricultural pesticides before they happen. DPR can ensure that all requests to use restricted material pesticides are posted publicly on county websites in real time, along with approvals and denials of these requests.

Take Action