Having seen pesticides taken off the shelf or severely restricted over the years, agricultural organizations and growers need to do what they can to help prevent losing important chemicals. That thought surfaced recently with the California Department of Pesticide Regulation’s scrutiny of Hexazinone (Velpar). In the not-to-distant future DPR will be making its decision on the herbicide’s fate. It is important for growers to be aware of what may happen.

Early this year, Mick Canevari, farm adviser emeritus from Stockton, alerted CAFA that DPR had found trace amounts of Velpar’s active ingredient in a few wells in the San Joaquin Valley. Since that time two hearings have been completed. At one of the hearings, Canevari, UC Statewide Forage Specialist Dan Putnam, crop advisor Fred Strauss, and CAFA board member Tom Ellis, spoke about Velpar’s importance for alfalfa. Feedback I got from Ellis, who farms near Grimes, indicated that the information explaining Velpar’s importance was extremely well presented and received. Information presented at the meeting also pointed out that the amount of hexazinone found in the groundwater was not a health concern.

However, more grower input is needed to provide information on economic hardships if DPR were to call for mitigation measures. It’s particularly important to get information on how much it costs to implement mitigation measurers, such as changing irrigation practices and/or creating settlement ponds or basins to contain runoff. 

A sub-committee is working on its recommendation, which is due to the DPR director on Aug. 8. The Director’s decision is slated for Sept. 7. Time is running short and grower input is needed. DPR is concerned about direct leaching in fields and runoff from fields, especially on cracking clay soils.           

Growers who have common groundsel, which produces toxic compounds, are well aware of Velpar’s importance. Alfalfa growers, CAFA members or not, can contact me for information at 415-892-0167. Or e-mail me at, Akiess@CMC.net.

Odds and Ends

Seems like good intentions go awry when federal or state agencies are involved. Proposition 65 is a good example. Richard Cornett, communications director for the Western Plant Health Association, had an interesting article in the June 4 Western Farm Press. Prop 65 requires that California keeps a list of known chemicals that “cause cancer or reproduction harm.” My focus over the years has been the Endangered Species Act, which needs extensive overhauling. But so does Prop 65.

Cornett explains how lawyers milk the system. Example: A company receives a notice of violation that people are exposed to Prop 65 substances. That may or may not be true. The notice gives the right to sue after 60 days. Rather than a long, expensive trial, the company is better off by paying the attorney’s padded fees.

To make things worse, in 2008 the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment decided it had the authority to add chemicals to Prop 65. Since then, said Cornett, dozens of chemicals found in common products like carpets, cosmetics and even critical pharmaceuticals were put on the list.

No wonder businesses are fleeing the Golden State.