California Farm Bureau president Bill Pauli, a Mendocino County wine grape and pear grower, has joined an elite group of farmers. He is only the sixth farmer in the past decade to have his pesticide use permit revoked.
Pauli has accepted the findings of the Mendocino County agricultural commissioner who after a 10-month investigation found Pauli, often characterized in Farm Bureau press mailings as the chief spokesman for California agriculture, in egregious violation of state and local pesticide laws by being verbally abusive to a county agricultural inspector and locking the gate to his vineyard preventing her from leaving.
According to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, Pauli was fined $400 and his pesticide use permit pulled.
According to county ag commissioner David Bengston, Cindy Beaver, an inspector from his office showed at Pauli's Potter Valley vineyard on a Saturday to inspect a paraquat application for which Pauli had filed a notice of intent to use. The inspector was in her personal car, and Pauli demanded to know who she was and why she was at the vineyards. The incident occurred last June on Pauli's farm.
According to the ag commissioner Beaver identified herself to Pauli after which the state Farm Bureau president became “verbally abusive,” and locked the gate to his vineyard, preventing Beaver from leaving. After about 10 minutes, Pauli's wife, Janet, opened the gate to allow Beaver to leave. The inspector left the property without conducting her inspection.
“We felt that it was a pretty extreme reaction,” Bengston said in the Press Democrat article.
According to Pauli, he was concerned about Beaver not wearing a badge and not driving a county vehicle. He told the ag commission he had had a run in with other regulatory officials over trees he had removed from a waterway.
The Pauli's have accepted the ag commissioner's findings and penalties, waiving their rights to a hearing or appeal. Beaver left the ag commissioners office shortly after the incident and now works with the USDA Farm Service Agency in Ukiah.
Pauli is a third-generation Potter Valley farmer and has been a leader for more than 20 years in California Farm Bureau. He has been state president since 1997.
No doubt Pauli regrets the incident. Admittedly an ag commissioner representative showing up in an unmarked car on Saturday to conduct an inspection is a bit out of the norm. Nevertheless, Pauli's reaction was way out of line.
The unfortunate incident casts another dubious light on California Farm Bureau and its ability to be effective as an advocate for California agriculture. It reflects an arrogance that continues to dilute Farm Bureau's ability to represent California agriculture.
The next time there is a legislative hearing about the state's pesticide regulations, it is doubtful the president of Farm Bureau will be there to advocate for agriculture. It would be interesting to be at the Department of Pesticide Regulation the next time a Farm Bureau representative came calling to discuss issues.