Let’s Have a Discussion About New Pesticide Regulations

Let’s Have a Discussion About New Pesticide Regulations

My God, I love the smell of manure in the evening. That’s when it’s often applied where we live, a wonderful aroma that signals the end of one season, the start of another.


When we first moved in, one of our neighbors thought the smell was from some nefarious agricultural chemical. I almost laughed, thinking about the old joke about knowing a certain substance from c, but then saw the concern in my neighbor’s face. I quickly assured her it was a simple nighttime manure application, a practice even a backyard gardener could appreciate.

I was reminded the other day of that fundamental disconnect most people have from farming when talking to a 30-something grower named Ward McCown, a Texan. He has a 10-acre direct-market farm in Tyler and was proud to tell me his house was smack dab in the middle, where he and his wife are raising their children.

You think Ward sprays all kinds of toxic pesticides? That’s apparently what a lot of the 98% or so of the people in our society who have no direct connection to the farm believe. At least it sure seems so here in California, where this year the state enacted legislation to further protect children from pesticide sprays.

The new regulations prohibit many pesticide applications within a quarter-mile of public K-12 schools and licensed child daycare facilities during school hours. The mandate can be particularly onerous for Golden State strawberry growers, as the berries grow best ― at least for much of the year ― in the cool coastal climate also favored by a lot of people.

The new regulations were adopted following a two-year process to gather public and stakeholder input. The state’s Department of Pesticide Regulation conducted three formal hearings and 15 public workshops in five locations around the state to gather input and reviewed more than 19,000 public comments, indicating keen interest.

To the state’s credit, in addition to tightening restrictions, the regulations are designed to encourage greater communication between growers and school/daycare officials. By providing more information on nearby pesticide applications and increasing communication, the new rules are expected to help schools and daycare centers in responding to potential incidents and inquiries from parents.

Those parents would perhaps best be served by getting some insight from Ward. I guarantee a lot of them would openly gasp at the idea that he’s not only raising his kids next to a strawberry field, he planted the field himself.

It obviously wasn’t out of ignorance; Ward has a bachelor’s degree from Texas Tech University, where he studied business and agronomy. I didn’t talk to Ward about these land use ideas, and don’t mean to imply how he feels about pesticides one way or the other. But he doesn’t have to say a darn thing as far as I’m concerned.

Do you really have to state your position on the safety of your farming practices when you’re raising your children right in the middle of your fields? No, his actions speak louder than words. Still, I really wish the folks in California who are so afraid of farming could have a word with Ward.