Originally published: The Fresno Bee
State pesticide regulators are clamping down on spraying farm chemicals near school sites and day care centers under a first-of-its-kind statewide regulation.
The California Department of Pesticide Regulation released on Thursday its revised proposal for a spray ban that will affect about 3,500 schools and about 2,500 farmers in California.
Under the proposal rule, farmers are prohibited from making certain pesticide applications near school sites and licensed child day care facilities that are within a quarter mile. The rule applies Monday through Friday between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.
Although growers will not be required to notify affected school sites, licensed day care facilities and the county agricultural commissioners in advance of pesticide applications, they still must provide annual notification of the pesticides expected to be applied within a quarter mile of these locations.
Proponents of stricter regulations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, have said the state’s proposal does not go far enough. A 2014 report by the California Environmental Health Tracking Program found that Fresno County has 131 schools that are within a quarter-mile of fields or orchards treated with pesticides.
In a letter to DPR, the ACLU pushed for limiting pesticide use near schools altogether instead of just during the proposed time frame; extending the quarter-mile buffer zone to a full mile; and expanding protections to charter and private schools.
Ryan Jacobsen, executive director of the Fresno County Farm Bureau, said farmers are already under the strictest pesticide regulations in the nation and that the proposed regulations are adding an additional layer of precautions.
“We are hoping that this is going to be something that is workable for growers that will be impacted,” Jacobsen said.
The revision also clarifies that “school site” does not apply to school buses or vehicles not on school property. County agricultural commissioners may also identify an adjacent park used regularly by schools on the weekdays as part of a school site.
The proposed regulation will take effect Jan. 1, 2018. And the public can comment on the revisions during a 15-day period. Public comment will be received between March 20 and April 4 to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We believe this regulation will provide Californians with probably the most robust protection in the nation for schoolchildren when agricultural pesticides are applied near their school,” said Brian Leahy, the department’s director, in a news release. “It simply makes it more difficult to create an unacceptable pesticide hazard at a school site.”