Pesticide ban near schools would devastate farms

Joe Del Bosque shows an organic field at his farm in Firebaugh. State regulators are considering stricter rules on pesticide use near California schools.
Joe Del Bosque shows an organic field at his farm in Firebaugh. State regulators are considering stricter rules on pesticide use near California schools. Sacramento Bee file

The California Department of Pesticide Regulation is developing new rules that would restrict pesticide use near schools. Anti-pesticide activists are calling for a ban on pesticides within one mile of any public school.

Who can argue with that? No one wants farmers indiscriminately spraying chemicals around our kids.

But here is the plain truth, from someone who is both a farmer and a parent. Pesticides are just one tool that we use to protect the food we grow from harmful insects and plant and soil diseases. We work hard to limit their use with other methods of pest control, such as frequently rotating crops, mechanical tillage and timing planting properly.

However, these methods aren’t always enough. From time to time, we do find it absolutely necessary to apply pesticides. I can promise you that when we do spray or fumigate, we do so judiciously and precisely. Our motto is the right protection, in the right amount, in the right place, at the right time.

The notion that this type of limited, targeted pesticide use is dangerous to children a mile away is founded purely on fear. Science tells us otherwise.

California has the strictest agricultural chemical application regulations in the country. We are proud that we can comply with these rules while still producing healthy, quality food for consumers here and around the world.

Did you know all pesticides registered in California undergo as many as 120 health, safety and environmental tests by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency before they can be used? Given the scrutiny pesticides face during the approval process, shouldn’t similar scientific rigor be applied to any new rules adopted by the state?

I can assure you the data do not justify the one-mile buffer.

My family has been farming in California since the early 1970s. I am proud to say that we have not experienced a single pesticide-related illness in any of our workers or neighbors living near our fields. Safety is our No. 1 priority and we would never overuse pesticides or apply them in a manner that poses a health risk to our employees, communities or the consumers who eat our food. I know my fellow farmers agree.

As a parent, I am concerned about where the fresh produce I feed my kids will come from if the department acquiesces to the activists’ demands because it won’t come from California.

Roughly 85 percent of the land my family farms is within one mile of a school. This proposal would effectively put us and many other California family farmers out of business. Before further restricting the already-cautious and meticulous application of pesticides on many farms around the state, the department must do its due diligence and examine the science where it exists, or commission new science where it does not.

The success and viability of farming in our state depend on it.

Pete Aiello owns and operates Uesugi Farms in Gilroy and is a member of the Western Growers Association’s Future Leaders Program. He can be contacted at