The Western Agricultural Processors Association (WAPA) has voiced concerns about the proposed mill assessment increase. WAPA recently sent a letter to CalEPA Secretary Jared Blumenfeld detailing the challenges a tiered mill tax increase would create for farmers. The purported purpose for moving to a tiered system is to push the industry towards lower-risk pesticides. However, WAPA President and CEO Roger Isom said that simply is not possible in some instances.
“This is plain and simple a tax increase. It’s a tax increase at a time when this state and these communities are just coming out of the pandemic. It makes no sense to be requiring farmers to spend more money right now,” Isom noted. “It’s not going to achieve a single reduction and the reason is very clear. Fumigants fall in that category…there are no alternatives to fumigants. So how can we switch?”
A lack of fumigant alternatives presents two sets of issues for growers, Isom explains. Many export destinations require fumigants to be applied to products before they can be exported to foreign markets. Some trade markets also have specific fumigant requirements for certain commodities. Increasing mill assessments at such a dramatic rate could put export opportunities in jeopardy for a variety of different producers.
“That’s patently unfair and again, doesn’t achieve what DPR claims is their ultimate goal. We share the goal. If we didn’t have to use fumigants, that would be fantastic. Because they’re not cheap, they’re very expensive,” said Isom. “If there was an alternative, I can assure you we would be using it and we would welcome the opportunity. But right now, it doesn’t exist. We don’t have a choice.”
Assessment rates would be more than doubled for some of the higher-tiered materials under the proposal. The funding that would be raised through a higher mill assessment would go towards a variety of efforts. Much of the increased funding would be used for hiring as many as 50 new employees. The increased personnel would bolster enforcement actions as well as community air monitoring for pesticide levels. “They have been monitoring for over 10 years and have only had a single exceedance out of 10’s of thousands if not 100’s of thousands of applications. Even in that one case, it was simply over their screening level and not at a level that causes any concern whatsoever,” Isom explained.