2. The State-Local Partnership

Back to Overview of Pesticide Use Reporting

The County Agricultural Commissioners and the Pesticide Regulatory Program

The intricacies of the full use reporting system can only be understood in the context of California's overall pesticide regulatory program. DPR is responsible under State law, and delegation of authority by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, for evaluating and registering all pesticides before sale or use in California, as well as for regulating and controlling the use of pesticides. Under the direction and supervision of DPR, the county agricultural commissioners carry out enforcement activities at the local level.

California's state/county program for regulating pesticide use is both unique and comprehensive. Besides administering the restricted materials permitting system, the county agricultural commissioners enforce other State laws and regulations relating to pesticide use at the local level. The commissioners inspect the operations and records of growers, pest control operators, pesticide dealers, and agricultural pest control advisers; register licensed pest control businesses, pest control aircraft pilots, and agricultural pest control advisers doing business in the county; conduct pesticide incident investigations; provide training to pesticide users; and, under contract with DPR, collect fresh produce samples for State pesticide residue monitoring programs. Restricted materials (with certain exceptions) may be possessed or used only by or under the supervision of licensed or certified persons, and only in accordance with an annual permit issued by the county agricultural commissioner. The restricted material permit is a key element of the local regulatory program. A commissioner may require that restricted material users employ specific use practices to mitigate potential adverse effects or may deny the permit with cause. Permits for the agricultural use of these pesticides must be specific as to site and timing of applications and are usually issued for a season or year. Before applying a pesticide, the grower or applicator must submit a notice of intent to the county agricultural commissioner at least 24 hours before the application. It must include any changes in the environmental setting that may have occurred since the permit was originally issued.

In the mid-1980s, DPR developed software to assist the counties in issuing permits and in managing the restricted materials permitting system. The program captures a variety of data, including:

  • permit number;
  • permittee name, address, telephone number, and contacts;
  • site ID and location description;
  • section, township, range, base, and meridian;
  • commodity/crop;
  • proposed planted acres; and
  • list of chemicals that may be used throughout the year for each commodity/crop.

Since most permits are issued at the beginning of the calendar year, the permit may be considered a planning document. If there are subsequent changes in crops or acreage to be planted, the permits are updated.

When the full use reporting program began in 1990, DPR modified the restricted materials permit software so commissioners could use it to help manage the process of issuing operator and site IDs. With a few minor exceptions, all counties now use this computerized system for issuing both restricted material permits and IDs. Commissioners also use the county pesticide regulatory computer system to manage county registration of businesses using or recommending the use of pesticides (such as structural pest control operators, landscape businesses, and other entities), and their reported pesticide use. DPR has assigned full-time staff to maintain the county computer systems, e.g., hardware and software maintenance, development of new computer applications, and training.