Department of Pesticide Regulation Seeks to Bar Bakersfield Pilot from Applying Pesticides after Reported Drift Incidents
Secretary for Environmental Protection
Leia Bailey, Communications Director
(916) 445-3974 | Leia.Bailey@cdpr.ca.gov
SACRAMENTO – The California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) has asked a Kern County judge to halt pesticide applications by a Bakersfield-area aerial pesticide business accused of several illegal drift incidents that harmed at least one person and damaged property. Defendants in the complaint, filed on Sept. 29, include John A. Slykerman and his company, Agra Fly Inc.
DPR is seeking a court order barring Slykerman from conducting aerial pesticide applications. It also seeks various civil penalties.
"The California Department of Pesticide Regulation is taking immediate action against Slykerman and Agra Fly for their repeated illegal actions that have injured people and property," said DPR Assistant Director Ken Everett. "DPR’s quick action is needed to prevent further egregious violations."
The complaint focuses on six separate alleged drift incidents. In each case, the complaint says, the drift was a violation of both pesticide label requirements and California regulations. In addition, the complaint notes Slykerman does not have a current FAA-approved medical certificate, which is required to aerially apply pesticides.
The agricultural commissioners’ offices in Kern and Tulare counties investigated Slykerman’s drift violations and sought DPR’s collaboration to bring a coordinated enforcement action. California’s 55 agricultural commissioners investigate pesticide violations and partner with DPR to enforce pesticide use laws and regulations.
"We take drift incidents very seriously and immediately investigate them," said Tulare County Agricultural Commissioner Tom Tucker. "Our investigators work closely with DPR to enforce our state laws and pesticide use requirements that keep Californians safe."
Incidents of damaging drift alleged in the complaint include:
Arvin/Lamont Drift. On Sept. 2, 2023, Slykerman and Agra Fly were involved in a drift incident near the Kern County communities of Arvin and Lamont. The pesticide was being applied to an almond orchard and reportedly drifted onto people and property nearby. The investigation is ongoing.
Shafter Drift. On May 11, 2023, Slykerman was aerially applying pesticides to a cherry orchard near Shafter. The Kern County agricultural commissioner received a complaint that pesticides from the application had drifted onto a neighboring property. The Kern County agricultural commissioner investigated the incident and issued a fine to Agra Fly.
Lindsay Road Drift. On March 31, 2023, Slykerman was aerially applying pesticides to a field near Lindsay Road, south of Bakersfield. The Kern County agricultural commissioner received a complaint that pesticides from the application had drifted onto a neighboring property and onto a person. The Kern County agricultural commissioner investigated the incident and issued a fine to Agra Fly.
Porterville Drift. On Jan. 23, 2023, Slykerman was aerially applying pesticides to an orange orchard near Porterville, southeast of Tulare. The pesticides reportedly drifted onto a nearby field and person, who reported symptoms of pesticide exposure including burning sensation on skin and nausea. The property owner’s tangerine trees were also reportedly damaged.
Famoso Hills Drive Drift. On Jan. 21, 2023, a pilot was applying pesticides near Famoso Hills Drive, north of Bakersfield. The pesticide drifted onto nearby pastureland, damaging it. The Kern County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office investigated and issued fines to both Slykerman and Agra Fly.
Bear Mountain Boulevard Drift. On Sept. 24, 2022, a pilot associated with Agra Fly was applying pesticides near Bear Mountain Boulevard, south of Bakersfield. An investigation by the Kern County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office found that a pesticide drifted onto a nearby pistachio site, damaging the trees.
"Defendants’ activities are a public nuisance that endanger the life, well-being and property of the community around their applications. Each day that Defendants conduct aerial pesticide applications, the significant threat to the community exists," the complaint states, urging the court’s intervention.
For more information, you can read a copy of the complaint on DPR’s website.
ABOUT THE DEPARTMENT OF PESTICIDE REGULATION
The California Department of Pesticide Regulation protects human health and the environment by fostering sustainable pest management and carrying out a robust regulatory program.
DPR’s work includes conducting scientific evaluations of pesticides to assess and mitigate potential harm to human health or the environment prior to and following registration, registering all pesticides prior to sale or use in California, monitoring for pesticides in the air and water, and enforcing pesticide laws and regulations in coordination with 55 County Agricultural Commissioners and their combined 500 field inspectors across the state’s 58 counties. DPR invests in innovative research, outreach, and education to encourage the development and adoption of integrated pest management tools and practices and conducts outreach to ensure pesticide workers, farmworkers and local communities have access to pesticide safety information. More information about DPR.