NEWS & ISSUES

EPA Announces New, Earlier Protections for People from Pesticide Spray Drift

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is putting protections in place sooner near where pesticides are applied.  EPA will now assess the potential for people to be exposed to a pesticide when it drifts away from where it is applied earlier in the agency’s review process. This applies to new active ingredient pesticide registrations and new use decisions.  This updated process will protect people from pesticide spray drift 15 years sooner in the review process for new pesticides than has historically occurred.  This change is also consistent with the agency’s commitment to address environmental justice concerns from pesticide use in and around farm communities and to comply with the Endangered Species Act, where EPA is working to improve how it evaluates risk to and protects endangered species.  EPA will use chemical specific human health spray drift analyses to determine specific label instructions to protect against and reduce the occurrence of spray drift, such as droplet sizes and buffer distances, for each pesticide and use.  Additionally, if EPA identifies spray drift risks for people living or working nearby or non-target species, the agency will protect against those risks.  As part of this action, going forward EPA will now include a chemical specific human health spray drift analysis for:

  • New active ingredients: any new submissions for domestic uses of new active ingredients.
  • New uses and amended uses: any new use and amended use registration submissions where that active ingredient has previously received a chemical specific spray drift analysis.
  • Currently pending registrations: registration actions that are currently under review with the agency, when possible.

 

Association Continues to Speak out Against CDPR’s Notification Regulation

Association President/CEO Roger Isom testified at the California Department of Pesticide Regulation’s (CDPR’s) Advance Pesticide Notification Regulation that would notify anyone who signs up to be notified at least 24 hours in advance of the application of a restricted pesticide.  More than 80 people attended the event held Friday night in Turlock. Approximately 50 participants testified at the event with farmworker representatives and anti-pesticide activists calling for the regulations to now specify the exact location of each restricted pesticide application. The current draft allows someone to enter an address, and they will receive notification of any restricted pesticide application within a square mile of the application.  Activists showed up in force holding a rally before the meeting immediately outside the venue and then repeatedly chanting during the hearing. Activists outnumbered agricultural interest 9 to 1.  Joining the Association to testify from agriculture were the California Farm Bureau Federation, San Joaquin Farm Bureau, Western Plant Health Association and one grower, Brent Barton from Barton Ranch. Isom’s comments centered on CDPR’s lack of explanation of their existing registration process and the protections already put in place to protect workers, bystanders and residents.  Isom stated “there are already protections in place. There is no way DPR or the ag commissioners that are here tonight would ever allow the application of a pesticide that would impact a farmworker, resident or innocent bystander. They just wouldn’t do it.”

CDPR Issues Critical Section 24c Special Local Needs Registration for 18 for Sefina Inscalis (afidopyropen)

This week, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation issued a Section 24c Special Local Needs (SLN) Emergency Registration for Sefina Inscalis Insecticide (afidopyropen). The request for the Section 24c was submitted last week by the California Cotton Ginners and Growers Association in conjunction with BASF to help address the disastrous lygus situation. While it isn’t the silver bullet the Association tried to get in asking CDPR to allow us to use Transform (sulfoxaflor), it is a help. Also, CDPR acted quickly to address the crisis where growers were already spraying as many as 5 times to control the relentless lygus problem caused by this past winter long and heavy rains. The Section 24c now allows for an additional application of Sefina, which is critical right now for lygus. All ag commissioners have been notified and recommendations can now be made.

California Cotton Loses Millions Due to Lygus Infestation in 2023

As if economic conditions in agriculture are not challenging enough, losses by cotton growers in 2023 will be repeated in 2024 unless California’s Department of Pesticide Regulation uses its emergency authority to allow the use of a highly effective pesticide used in all other cotton growing states.  Recently published USDA NASS data showed a devastating loss statewide of more than 217 pounds to the acre of pima cotton as compared to the average pima yield for the last five years.  That yield reduction cost California cotton growers more than $31 million. In the counties where lygus seemed to be the worst (Kern and Merced), the average yield was down more than 500 pounds per acre.  It should also be noted that 3,000 acres were completely abandoned due to lygus that overwhelmed the fields. Based on those numbers the cotton industry lost more than $7 million on the acres that were abandoned for an overall total of more than $38 million.  And that does not include the cost of the pesticides that were applied or the cost to apply them.  Some growers spent more than $300 per acre and sprayed as much as 10 to 13 times just to control lygus compared to one or two applications if we’re able to use sulfoxaflor (Transform).

Over $38 million lost in 2023 and 2024 is shaping up to be as bad if not worse. Last year, our cotton growers tried to fight off lygus by spraying the only pesticide tools approved by DPR as much as thirteen times. The negative results speak for themselves as does the need for DPR to do much better in 2024. At stake are our farms, jobs and communities.

Bureau Increases Water Allocation to 50%

This week, the Bureau of Reclamation announced another increase in the Central Valley Project 2024 water supply allocation for south-of-Delta contractors.  While all north-of-Delta Central Valley Project contractors are currently at 100% of their supplies, south-of-Delta agricultural contractors are being increased from 40% to 50%.  All other Central Valley Project contract allocations remain the same per the March 22 water supply update. Initial contract allocations were announced on Feb. 21 and updated in March and April.  “With the current and forecasted conditions that factor into Central Valley Project allocations, in particular, a greater than expected rate of exports during the month of June, we are pleased to be able to provide an additional increase to south-of-Delta agricultural contractors,” said California-Great Basin Regional Director Karl Stock.

Association Submits 24c for Sefina Inscalis

The California Cotton Ginners and Growers Association (CCGGA) submitted a 24c Special Local Needs Application for a 3rd application of Sefina Inscalis (afidopyropen) to combat the intense lygus pressure on cotton in the San Joaquin Valley.  The application included letters of support from Ag Commissioners from Fresno, Kern, Kings, and Merced, as well as letters of support from BASF and UC Cooperative Extension.  This is very similar to the Section 18 application submitted and granted last year to CCGGA.  While it is not a silver bullet, the industry is hoping it provides some efficacy to bring lygus under control.  We are hoping for a fairly quick turnaround by CDPR since nothing is changed from last year’s Section 18 application and that was issued fairly quickly.  Meanwhile the Association will keep up its efforts to get Transform (sulfoxaflor) issued. 

Association Testifies at PM2.5 Plan Hearing

Association President/CEO Roger A. Isom and Director of Technical Services Christopher McGlothlin both testified at the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District Governing Board Meeting where the latest State Implementation Plan (SIP) for Attaining the Federal PM2.5 Ambient Air Quality Standard.  This plan is a far reaching plan that will include measures for reducing emissions from low dust almond harvesters, require more conservation management plan measures on farms, especially ones that address windblown dust on fallowed fields, and potential new requirements for irrigation pump engines.  Isom commented on the need to base any new measures on actual scientific research and measurements and only focus on those measures that actually move the needle.  Isom also commented on the need for incentives to assist in these efforts  and warned the board of the impending disaster with the lack of electric infrastructure.  Director of Technical Services McGlothlin responded to some of the environmental justice activists who criticized the District for not going far enough and wanting to be more restrictive.  While many of the activists criticized the plan as being a mere extension, McGlothlin pointed out that many within the agricultural industry were stepping up to meet the constantly changing regulations.  Regulations such as updated control efficiencies for Boilers, Roasters and Process Heaters as well as voluntarily transitioning older tractors out for lower emitting equipment on a quicker timeline.  McGlothlin also highlighted the fact that the Air District already has the toughest regulations in the country, and has been able to achieve tightening air quality standards with the assistance of industry stepping up to do its part.

Agreement Reached to Reform Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA)

After many months of discussions, an apparent agreement has been reach on reforming the Private Attorney General Act (PAGA).  The agreement comes after months of discussions between the Newsom Administration, legislative leaders, labor advocates and a coalition of businesses.  The agreement will be introduced in legislation.  If passed by the Legislature, it would reform PAGA to ensure workers retain a strong tool to bring forth labor claims and receive fair compensation, while limiting the shakedown lawsuits that hurt employers and employees. The deadline for initiatives to be withdrawn from the November 2024 ballot is June 27, 2024.

The following are the core elements of the reform package:

  • Employee Share of Penalty
    • Increases share employees receive from any penalty from 25% to 35%.
  • Standing
    • Requires the employee (plaintiff) to personally experience the alleged violations brought in a claim.
    • Alleged violations must have occurred within the last year (presently, there is no time limitation).
  • Penalty
    • Caps Penalties: For employers who proactively take steps to comply with the Labor Code before receiving a notice, the maximum penalty that can be awarded is 15 percent of the applicable penalty amount.
    • Caps Penalties: For employers who take steps to fix policies and practices after receiving a PAGA notice, the maximum penalty that can be awarded is 30 percent of the applicable penalty amount.
    • Reduces the maximum penalty where the alleged violation was brief or where it is a wage statement violation that did not cause confusion or economic harm to the employee (i.e. misspelling of company name or forgetting to add “Inc.” on the pay statement).
    • Levels the playing field for employers who pay weekly by ensuring a penalty is adjusted. Presently, such employers are penalized at twice the amount because the penalty accrues on a per pay period basis.
    • Addresses derivative claims.
    • Creates a new penalty ($200 per pay period) if an employer acted maliciously, fraudulently, or oppressively.
  • Employer Right to Cure
    • Expands which Labor Code sections can be cured, so employees are made whole quickly.
    • Protects small employers by providing a more robust right to cure process through the state labor department (Labor and Workforce Development Agency) to reduce litigation and costs.
    • Provides an opportunity for early resolution in court for larger employers.
  • Strengthening Enforcement Agency
    • The Administration will pursue a trailer bill to give the California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) the ability to expedite hiring and filling vacancies to improve and expedite enforcement of employee labor claims.
  • Judicial Discretion (Manageability)
    • Codifies that a court may limit both the scope of claims and evidence presented at trial.
  • Injunctive Relief

Allows for injunctive relief.

Yolo County Superior Court Rules in Favor of Sites Project Authority

This past month, the Superior Court of Yolo County released an order denying all claims in the Friends of the River v. Sites Project Authority case.  In late 2023, six environmental organizations, Friends of the River, Center for Biological Diversity, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, California Water Impact Network, Save California Salmon, and Sierra Club, petitioned the Court to review certain aspects of the Authority’s California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) process and the Authority’s certification of the Final Environmental Impact Report (Final EIR) for the Sites Reservoir Project.  The Yolo County Superior Court found in the Authority’s favor in every claim asserted by the environmental organizations. The Sites Final EIR fully complies with CEQA.  “We are grateful the court’s decision will allow us to advance Sites Reservoir and ultimately supply more water for people, farms, and the environment. The need for this water is significant, and we have no time to waste,” said Fritz Durst, Chair of the Sites Project Authority.  Sites Reservoir is purposely designed to work in concert with California’s changing climate conditions by capturing and storing water during extreme storm events for use during severe dry periods when it is needed the most. Sites will be a unique reservoir in California, one that captures and stores water for multiple benefits including as a dedicated asset specifically for the environment to support fish and their habitat during drought periods.  Sites is an off-stream facility that does not dam a major river system and does not threaten fish migration or spawning. Sites Reservoir diversions would be conducted under highly protective operating and permit conditions that establish when water can be diverted after all other water rights and regulatory requirements are met.  It is hoped that construction will begin in 2026.

2024-2025 Emerging Leaders Program Class Announced – Californian Named

Twelve U.S. cotton industry members have been chosen to participate in the National Cotton Council’s (NCC) Emerging Leaders Program for 2024-25.  Participants include: PRODUCERS – Clint Dunn, Itta Bena, MS; Lambert Marshall, Scott, AR; Greg Riccomini, Bakersfield, CA; Todd Rovey, Buckeye, AZ; Greg Sikes, Brooklet, GA; and Jack Whatley, Odem, TX; GINNERS – Nathan Goldman, Casa Grande, AZ; Daniel Luehrs, Odem, TX; MERCHANTS – Brett Edgy, Savannah, GA; Jacinta Condon, Greenville, SC; WAREHOUSER – Chris Moore, Southaven, MS, and MARKETING COOPERATIVE – Zach Flowers, Clarksdale, MS.

Now in its ninth year, the NCC’s Emerging Leaders Program is supported by a grant to The Cotton Foundation from Bayer.  NCC Chairman Joe Nicosia, a Cordova, TN merchant, said, “We are grateful for Bayer’s ongoing support of the Emerging Leaders Program. U.S. cotton needs dedicated leaders who are committed to helping our industry maintain a competitive edge in the global marketplace. This initiative is helping to identify men and women who have demonstrated the potential for taking on this important challenge and then encouraging and equipping them for this important task.”   Overall, the Emerging Leaders Program provides participants with a better understanding of how the NCC carries out its mission of ensuring the U.S. cotton industry’s seven segments can compete effectively and profitably in the raw cotton, oilseed and U.S.-manufactured product markets at home and abroad.  Specifically, participants get an in-depth look at: 1) the U.S. cotton industry infrastructure and the issues affecting the industry’s economic well-being; 2) the U.S. political process; 3) the NCC’s programs as well as its policy development and implementation process and 4) Cotton Council International’s activities aimed at developing and maintaining export markets for U.S. cotton, manufactured cotton products and cottonseed products.  The Emerging Leaders Program also provides participants with professional development and communications training such as presentation and business etiquette, instruction for engaging with the news media, and utilizing social media tools and tactics.   Class members will participate in three sessions.  The first session, set for the week of June 16, 2024, in Memphis and St. Louis, will provide an orientation to the NCC, professional development and communication skills training and an agribusiness briefing. During the second session, class members will see policy development at the NCC’s 2025 Annual Meeting in February.  The third session, to be conducted later in 2025 in Washington, DC, will provide a focus on policy implementation.