COVID-19 safety guidelines that are keeping more people at home more often has resulted in an increase in the number of farming complaints being made. While farming operations may not be doing anything different than they would be doing any other year at this point in the season, more people being home throughout the day provides more opportunity for complaints to be lodged.
“With more people being home during COVID, we’ve seen a pretty good uptick in all sorts of complaints,” said Lottie Martin, Santa Barbara County deputy agricultural commissioner. “We’ve gotten a number of complaints regarding odor, noise, dust, things like that.”
When the farming complaints are centered on issues such as odor or noise, Martin noted they typically try to work with the grower to resolve the issue and mitigate any further friction between neighbors. In the event there is an incident involving pesticides, it requires a formal investigation. Samples will be taken, interviews will be conducted, and the materials will all be reviewed and put into a report. “We’re required to do an investigation and we’re required to submit it to [the Department of Pesticide Regulation] in a timely manner,” Martin explained.
There are measures that can reduce the number of farming complaints being made. Growers can work with their pest control advisor to possibly find an alternative material that may be less pungent. Odor masks are also available. The timing of an application remains a significant factor, taking into consideration the time of day and weather conditions. Ensuring applicators are properly trained and have the ability to adapt to changing weather can also be beneficial.
“It’s not required, but we do recommend – especially in those areas where we have high complaints – that the applicators do keep records of the actual wind speed and conditions at the site,” said Martin. “An anemometer is really a great way to check the wind speed and the direction. So, we recommend that our applicators are trained to use those and they use them on-site, especially in those ag-urban interfaces.”
Listen to Martin’s full interview below.