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Contact: Charlotte Fadipe
June 20, 2013 (13-4)

State Takes Enforcement Action Against Illegal Pesticide Use

Santa Cruz County Grower to Pay $15,000 Fine; Strawberry Crop Ordered Destroyed

SACRAMENTO - Taking swift enforcement action, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) ordered a Santa Cruz County grower to destroy 10 acres of strawberries, estimated to be worth about $200,000, after an illegal pesticide was detected on the crop. In addition, the grower, V.L. Farms of Watsonville, has been ordered to pay a $15,000 penalty.

The enforcement action comes after DPRís Residue Monitoring Program detected the pesticide methomyl on strawberries for sale in Los Angeles County. State and federal law prohibits the use of this pesticide on strawberries. A subsequent investigation by the Santa Cruz County Agricultural Commissioner and DPR also detected the pesticide on the crop and equipment at VL Farms, located at 1120 Buena Vista Rd. in Watsonville.

“This is a significant action that should deter anyone who considers breaking our regulations,” said DPR Director Brian Leahy. “DPR works closely with local County Agricultural Commissioners to ensure that growers adhere to the state’s stringent pesticide rules, which make Californiaís produce the safest in the nation.”

The investigation was initiated in May, after DPR’s Residue Monitoring Program found illegal residues of methomyl on strawberries in retail outlets. A California Department of Food and Agriculture laboratory, using state-of-the-art testing equipment, detected 1.44 parts per million of methomyl. Methomyl is a restricted material, PDF (121 kb) that can only be used on crops listed on the label and with a permit issued by the County Agricultural Commissioner.

As a result, DPR ordered 1,093 cartons of strawberries removed from distributors and retail outlets. In addition V.L. Farms has been ordered to destroy the entire affected strawberry crop in the field.

The DPR investigation found a number of violations including:

  • Using a pesticide in a manner that conflicts with the registered label
  • Using the restricted pesticide without a written permit from the County Agricultural Commissioner
  • Unlawful packing, shipping or selling of produce that carries pesticide in excess of the permissible level

See settlement agreement, PDF (131 kb)

The DPR Pesticide Reside Monitoring Program is the most extensive program of its kind in the nation. It collects about 3,500 produce samples annually from wholesale and retail stores, farmers markets and other outlets for testing at California Department of Food and Agriculture’s laboratories. The laboratories test for more than 300 pesticides and breakdown products. Learn more about the CA Pesticide Residue Monitoring Program.

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