California Specialty Crop Leaders Condemn Pesticide Ruling

A judge has ordered California agricultural officials to stop spraying pesticides on public and private property to control insects that threaten the state’s $45 billion agriculture industry.

According to a Los Angeles Times story, the injunction by a Sacramento County Superior Court judge, issued late last week, could throw a substantial hurdle in front of efforts by the state Department of Food and Agriculture to control dozens of crop-damaging pests such as the Asian citrus psyllid, which carries bacteria that have decimated the citrus industry in Brazil and Florida.

Farmers and other property owners will still be able to use chemical insecticides, and the state can continue to use non-chemical means of pest control. But it will have to suspend spraying pesticides on vegetation in parks, school properties, and even homeowners’ backyards.

Chris Zanobini

That could cripple efforts to protect the state’s nurseries, who are on the front lines of pest invasions, said Chris Zanobini, President, California Association of Nurseries and Garden Centers. Zanobini was among the state’s leaders contacted by who responded via email.

“Any disruption in the programs that the Department of Food and Agriculture have in place to protect the spread of pests and disease is significant,” he writes. “The pressure on our state to control and manage the onslaught of invasive pests threatens our ability to continue to provide the most abundant and safest food supply in the world.”

The crops that look to be the most dangerously threatened by the ruling are oranges, mandarins, lemons, and other citrus crops. Joel Nelsen, President of California Citrus, is incensed.

“The judge’s decision is extremely disappointing and somewhat shocking. Because of a paperwork burden and omission, he is throwing California’s environmental quality and the production of food and fiber into a tailspin,” Nelsen states.

Joel Nelsen

“Predator fish can destroy natural waterways and their inhabitants; bark beetles can flourish in the forests; and vines and citrus trees are all now subject to the ravages of invasive pest and disease. Has our progressive agenda swung so far that paper burdens trump the production of food and fiber all the while protecting the environment?  It seems so.”

The citrus industry really is threatened by the decision, says George Radanovich, President of the California Fresh Fruit Association.

“It is critical for California to have the ability to protect our sustainable agricultural industry, as it enhances the U.S. food security through the prevention of plant pest and disease, as exhibited within the devastating threat that California’s citrus industry is now confronted with,” he states.

George Radanovich

Radanovich adds that “California’s pest exclusion programs not only protect the state’s urban and rural environment and forests, but also the biodiversity from plant pests and disease while continuing to facilitate California’s economic and trade positions through globally harmonized scientifically based measures. Programs such as these protect farmers from economically devastating pest and disease outbreaks, protect the state’s environment from the loss of species diversity, and continue to ensure a safe and healthy domestic food supply for California’s citizens.”