February 14, 2012
The County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 Tuesday to submit a resolution to Governor Jerry Brown urging him to pull methyl iodide from the state's list of registered pesticides.
The decision came in spite of a staff recommendation by Agricultural Commissioner Eric Lauritzen to keep a "watch" position on the controversial fumigant, which is wrapped up in ongoing litigation. Brown also appointed a new director to the state Department of Pesticide Regulation earlier this month, which anti-pesticide activists hope means action.
The supervisors, with Lou Calcagno dissenting, voted to take the strongest posture in opposition to methyl iodide that was being considered. A stakeholder group convening ag, labor and public health interests met several times in January to consider recommendations to the board, and crafted a draft consensus letter to Brown, which would've requested the governor "reaffirm a commitment to support more sustainable, least-toxic pest management strategies."
In public comment at Tuesday's meeting, Mark Murai, president of the California Strawberry Commission, spoke in favor of keeping only a watch position, arguing that methyl iodide keeps farms productive and therefore provides farmworker jobs. “The workers are being forgotten here. They need to make a living, and each year there’s a certain number of days they can do that in. They have to optimize the days,” he said.
Monterey Bay Central Labor Council Executive Director Cesar Lara said labor interests were opposed to the chemical even after they considered striking a balance between safety and jobs.
“The health and safety of our communities and work place is more important than any amount of profits," said Efren Barejas, vice president of the United Farm Workers in a statement.