7. Making Geography Count
Using Geographical Information to Identify Fields
DPR has taken a number of steps to improve the use reporting system, including working to standardize site identification. A Permit Mapping Assistance Program was established in 1995 to encourage the development and use of geographic information systems (GIS) to more accurately identify sites where pesticides will be applied. As part of this project, DPR trained county staff in standard mapping techniques, procedures, and map interpretation. The training provided the skills and materials to locate sites on large-scale (7.5-foot) U.S. Geological Survey topographic maps. This can enhance the assessment of environmental conditions at application sites for restricted materials and enable long-term tracking of applications on a geographic site-specific basis. The computerized permit programs are being revised to include GIS capabilities to capture the mapping coordinates of field sites and the supporting data. DPR has developed tools to allow field sites to be identified geographically, but with changing technological capabilities at the commissioner level, the department's primary functions are now to provide technical expertise and support to the evolving county-level GIS programs, coordinate and establish consistent guidelines statewide, and commit resources to developing improved pesticide tracking programs.
DPR created the Permit Mapping Developers Group in 1997 with representatives from the county agricultural commissioners to redesign the restricted material permit program to include a GIS component. The primary objectives of the Developers Group are to provide leadership and support to county agricultural commissioners implementing GIS technology in their business programs; develop standards that address issues of statewide consistency; improve data quality and timeliness; develop and provide GIS tools to assist in the collection, evaluation and maintenance of restricted materials permits and pesticide use reports; and provide a forum for the exchange of ideas.
The Developers Group developed recommendations for the standardization of site IDs and for the creation of consistent statewide site definitions and rules, later approved by the county commissioners. For site identification, a site is defined as a contiguous area that has only one operator and undergoes the same pest management and cultural practices, preferably consisting of a single commodity or use at a time. Exceptions to this definition (including interplanted commodities and sites of small acreage) will be left to the discretion of each commissioner. The Developers Group recommended that a site be identified using any naming or labeling scheme that provides relevance to the grower, the county, and others. However, when used in combination with the site operator's ID number, the combined label would be unique to the field site it represents, as the label refers to a place on the earth's surface and not the commodity that is grown on that piece of ground.
The counties began implementing these guidelines and rules for identifying field sites (Appendix B) in January 2000.