US (CA): State to boot smog-causing pesticides from S.J. Valley

State pesticide regulators expect to restrict use of smog-producing pesticides, commonly used on grapes, almonds, walnuts, alfalfa and other leading crops, from May through October next year in the San Joaquin Valley.

Formulations of abamectin, chlorpyrifos, gibberellins and oxyfluorfen that produce high levels of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, are on the state Department of Pesticide Regulation’s bad-boy list. Other formulations that are low in VOC emissions or not applied in farming can remain in use, regulators said Thursday.

The restrictions should take effect for the first time next spring to help the region meet Clean Air Act goals, said Charlotte Fadipe, agency spokeswoman. Department experts calculate that VOC emissions from pesticides in 2013 hit a “trigger level” of 17.2 tons per day in the Valley.

Fadipe said the agency expects the new rules to have little effect on Valley agriculture.

“We think that people will be able to find alternatives to the products that they have been using that have high VOCs,” she said.

Officials calculate only small changes in production costs, "ranging from an average annual saving of $39 (for the citrus industry) to about an average additional annual cost of $359 for almond producers," Fadipe said.

One reason for announcing the new rules now, well in advance of their May 1 launch, is to give chemical manufacturers, distributors and farmers time to change formulations and switch to low-emission products.

Yes, growers who use the affected products do have time to work with pesticide experts and suppliers to find alternatives, said Renee Pinel, president and chief executive of the Western Plant Health Association, a Sacramento-based group representing pesticide and fertilizer makers and distributors.

“However realistically, the impact to the grower community may not be able to be assessed until next year when pest and weather conditions indicate what type of products may be needed,” she said in an email.

Pinel said the association would work with its members to fully assess the impact of the restrictions and help provide products to growers.

But the rules are expected to take effect even if growers can’t find suitable alternatives or if the alternatives cost much more, Fadipe said.

“The harsh reality is we all have to do our part for clean air and sometimes that means, ‘Oops, I’m going to have to figure out a greener way to do what I’ve been doing,’ ” she said.

State pesticide application records for 2012, the most current available, show abamectin was used on dozens of crops in San Joaquin County, most frequently on almonds, winegrapes and walnuts, to control mites and insects. It is sold under a variety of brand names, including Avid, Ardent, Lucid, Minx and Reaper.

Chlorpyrifos, an insecticide sold under brand names Lorsban, Cobalt, Hatchet, Bolton and others, is widely used on county walnut orchards, as well as on alfalfa and asparagus. Oxyfluorfen, an herbicide marketed as Goal, Collide, Galigan and Oxystar, is also widely used in the county, most commonly on almonds, winegrapes and walnuts.

Gibberellins is a plant growth regulator, used primarily to boost fruit size in cherry production.

The records do not show whether those San Joaquin County applications are of high-VOC products affected by the ban.

Lists of restricted and unrestricted products; fact sheets for pesticide dealers, pest control advisers and growers; and more information is available on the agency website at


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