California Judge Stops CDFA Pest Control Spraying

Efforts to control the spread of dangerous pests such as the Asian citrus psyllid are threatened by the court’s action.

A California Superior Court judge has ordered the state’s Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) to temporarily stop spraying pesticides for agricultural pest control. The judge decided in favor of a lawsuit filed by 11 environmental activist groups and the city of Berkeley. Private citizens will still be able to use chemical insecticides on their property, but the order requires the state to use non-chemical means of pest control.

The court order targets only spraying for agricultural pests such as the Asian citrus psyllid. Spraying to control public health threats such as West Nile virus is not affected.

The order requires the state to comply with all environmental laws and provide notices to affected citizens, but no timeline or compliance guidance was provided. CDFA said it will consider appealing the case, and will continue to follow all state environmental laws. The order was issued as an injunction written by California Superior Court judge Timothy Frawley in Sacramento.

In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs allege that CDFA’s research into harmful effects was grossly inadequate. The court documents assert numerous violations of state environmental laws, including “unsupported assumptions and speculation” and a “woefully deficient” analysis of the pesticide dangers.

In its EcoWatch newsletter, members of the Center for Biological Diversity were told that “The court process culminating revealed not only far-reaching flaws in the state’s analysis of the environmental harm caused by the department’s pesticide use but also the agency’s decades-long history of evading disclosure of the human health and environmental impacts of its activities by granting itself repeated ’emergency’ exemptions from environmental laws.”

In the newsletter, Nan Wishner of the California Environmental Health Initiative was quoted as saying, “After more than 30 years of disregard for state environmental laws, the agency’s chemical weapons have finally been taken off the table.”

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About the Author

Len Wilcox

Len Wilcox is a freelance writer in Sanger, California. His commentary "The Western View" is a regular feature on Farm City Newsday and AgNet West. He was formerly a regular contributor to California Farmer Magazine. Aside from agriculture, Len has written extensively about the California deserts.