Pest Management Workgroup Seeks Sustainable Alternatives to Pesticides

Brian GermanIndustry, Pest Update

Recently, the Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) announced a new workgroup, devoted to a forward movement of integrated pest management (IPM). The Sustainable Pest Management Workgroup is made up of farmers, community members, university researchers, representatives from the pesticide industry, commodity groups, etcetera. The new workgroup will help identify practices, protocols, and tools to make the shift to safe pest management a reality.

Pest Management Workgroup

The workgroup, consisting of 26 individuals, will spend the next 18 months or so creating a “roadmap for Californians to develop and exhilarate the systemwide adoption of safer and more sustainable ways to manage pests”, said DPR Director Val Dolcini. He referred to the advancements already made in the citrus, strawberry, and almonds industries and added, “California farmers have been at this since the 1950s.”

Dolcini stated that with this program, they are now able to invest new resources at the DPR and the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) as well as invest new monies into the UC Cooperative Extension and various other elements of government that will assist Californians in making the adoption of IPM practices easier.

Governor Gavin Newsom is pleased with the advancements of the program and is working to replace the current flat fee mill assessment on pesticide sales with a new adjusted assessment.

“For years, we have used a flat fee mill assessment. A mil is 1/10th of one cent. Today the mill is 2.1 cents on the dollar, so when that first pesticide sale is made, whether it’s by a chemical company, wholesaler, or pesticide dealer, 2.1 cents goes to the DPR to assist us with all of the various things that we do,” Dolcini explained. “We’re not a general fund department, we’re a special fund department that really is funded in large part by the mill. For 16 years now, the mill has been capped at 2.1 cents or 21 mils.”

According to Dolcini, this proposal seeks to change the way the mill is assessed, going from a flat fee assessment to a tiered concept based on the toxicity of the pesticides being registered or sold in California. It would follow the model that the United States Environmental Protection Agency uses. The funds raised will help achieve some of the recommendations developed through the pest management workgroup.

“The new revenues from the program will be reinvested into our IPM programs, our grants programs, and our work on alternative research with UC academics. There will be new monies for CDFA’s IPM programs; $8 million approximately for UC and CSU to expand their own IPM research, strengthened enforcement, our air monitoring network, more money for ag commissioners, and community engagement,” said Dolcini.

Dolcini believes the goal of a proposal like this is to exhilarate that transition from higher toxicity pesticides to materials that have lower toxicity. “We’ve seen declines that are small, but incremental and measurable in the use of more toxic pesticides, and increases in things like biopesticides and agricultural oils, minerals and compounds like sulfur,” Dolcini said. 

Dolcini is convinced this proposal will send a signal to the market to continue research into alternatives and at the same time, identify new tools that can be of benefit to California’s agricultural economy.

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