Department of Agriculture/Weights & Measures Report

Written By: Department of Agriculture/Weights & Measures
Published: January 3, 2019

Container Recycle Recap

The Sonoma County Department of Agriculture/Weights & Measures held its fall plastic container recycling event on November 13, 2018. This free event gives our local farmers, nurseries, pest control businesses, golf courses, parks, and government agencies the opportunity to recycle empty non-reusable plastic pesticide containers, which would otherwise end up in the landfill. All participants must complete a Pesticide Container Rinse Certification from, certifying the containers are clean and have been triple-rinsed in accordance with Section 6684 of the California Code of Regulations. During this year’s fall event, 74 participants dropped off roughly 13,200 pounds of plastic – the second highest amount collected in Sonoma County behind 2015’s fall event, which collected 14,800 pounds of plastic.

Thanks to the help and cooperation of the Sonoma County Roads Department, we are able to coordinate with Interstate Ag Plastics to have our events at the Healdsburg Corporation Yard. With a two-man crew, Interstate Ag Plastics processes the pesticide containers on site, chipping the plastic into half-inch pieces. The material is then hauled to the Central Valley where it is distributed and processed into acceptable end use products. Some of these products include agricultural drainpipe, highway and agricultural fence posts, and industrial pallets for agricultural chemical and seed packaging. Since the creation of the Ag Container Recycling Council in 1992, 175,000,000 pounds of high-density polyethylene plastic has been recycled. Thank you to all who participated in this event, and to the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission for their sponsorship!

Chlorpyrifos – History through the Eyes of an Ag Biologist

By Pete Albers, Chief Deputy Agricultural Commissioner

Back in my high school days in the 1980s, two of my FFA projects were “work experience” projects. One of those projects was working for a small animal veterinarian both before and after school, and the other was working for a neighboring orange grower on weekends. I remember washing dogs and cats with flea shampoo and sending those same pets home with a flea collar. On weekends, I would move around jugs of chemicals for my neighbor (I did not apply the products as I wasn’t trained!). Both the flea shampoo and flea collars contained Dursban, and some of those pesticide jugs were Lorsban. Dursban and Lorsban are the common names of insecticides containing chlorpyrifos, which were commonly used around homes and landscaping, and in agriculture.

Chlorpyrifos is an organophosphate insecticide. There have always been regulations in place to protect applicators and handlers from repeated use of organophosphates. In 2001, due to the potential hazards to applicators and the environment, all indoor and residential use was prohibited for insecticides containing chlorpyrifos, essentially limiting chlorpyrifos for use in agriculture. In 2015, chlorpyrifos was designated a restricted material in California, meaning a permit was required for its purchase and use, and additional restrictions were placed on it in the form of permit conditions.

As the evaluation process of listing chlorpyrifos as a Toxic Air Contaminant is reaching its completion, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation released new permit conditions which became effective January 1, 2019. These new conditions have significantly restricted the use of chlorpyrifos, limiting it as a “critical use” on very specific commodities, and creating setbacks and buffer zones from occupied dwellings and sensitive sites. In Sonoma County, chlorpyrifos is used as a contact insecticide to aid in the control of Vine Mealybug, which is listed as an “approved critical use.” However, corresponding setbacks and buffer zones will need to be evaluated to determine if a specific application meets the new conditions. Chlorpyrifos use on apples and nursery stock, the other commodities in Sonoma County where this insecticide has been used in the last few years, is now prohibited. Please contact the Sonoma County Department of Agriculture/Weights & Measures with any questions on the new permits conditions and restrictions.

Purchasing Firewood

If you intend to purchase firewood to warm your home in the coming winter months, here are a few tips that may be helpful. California law defines a “cord” as a measure of firewood equal to 128 cubic feet and requires dealers to sell firewood by the measure of the cord. Firewood sold in quantities less than 1/8 of a cord (16 cubic feet), must be labeled and sold by the cubic foot measure or a fraction of a cubic foot.

Be wary of any sellers advertising firewood sales that use terms such as “truck load,” “face cord,” or “rack.” These terms have no legal meaning, are ambiguous, and place the consumer at a disadvantage when they attempt to determine how much firewood they actually receive. The use of these terms to sell firewood is prohibited by state law. If you run across these terms when shopping for firewood, it should alert you to someone who may be attempting to sell an improper measurement of firewood.

When you purchase firewood, it is important to get a sales receipt or delivery ticket that clearly indicates the name and address of the seller, the purchase or delivery date, the quantity of firewood purchased, and the purchase price. If you order a specific type of high-energy content wood such as oak, make sure that the delivery receipt indicates the type of wood ordered. Different wood types have very different energy contents, so make sure you receive the wood type you purchased. California law requires firewood dealers to provide customers with a receipt that contains the information mentioned above.

When firewood is delivered to your residence, ask the seller to stack it (additional fee may apply for this service) or stack the wood yourself immediately after the delivery and prior to burning any of the wood. To verify you received your full cord of wood, stack the wood neatly, placing it in a line or row, with individual pieces touching and parallel to each other. Make sure that the wood is compact and has as few gaps between logs as possible. Measure the stack by taking several measurements of length, width, and height. Average each of the several measurements of the length, width, and height in order to obtain a good representation of the stack’s three dimensions. Make sure you do not mix your measuring units or convert your measurements units to either inches or feet before you multiply your three dimensions. If width times height times length equals 128 cubic feet (WxHxL=128 cubic feet), you have a cord of firewood. If your measurements indicate a shortage of volume, contact the firewood dealer and allow them to correct the mistake. If the dealer will not correct the problem, contact Sonoma County Department of Agriculture/Weights & Measures at (707) 565-2371 before you burn any firewood.

Pesticide Use near Public Schools and Licensed Day Care Centers

A new regulation began January 1, 2018, that requires growers (agricultural production sites) to notify K-12 public schools and licensed day care centers of anticipated pesticide use for the next fiscal year (July 1-June 30). These notifications are due to school site administrators by April 30 each year.

The easiest way to see if you are required to do a school site notification, and to submit a notification, is using CalAgPermits. If you do not have an account for this program please contact us, or speak to one of our staff during permit renewal, and we will set one up for you.

Of 306 school sites notifications that are required in Sonoma County, 263 have been completed. This is an 86% compliance rate, which puts our county in line with most other counties in the state.

It is important to review your permit in CalAgPermits each year as there may be new school sites established within ¼ mile of your agricultural production site. If there are additional school sites, they will require a notification by April 30 as well.

On your homepage for CalAgPermits there is a box titled “School Notifications.” This is where you can review your current school site submission status and make amendments to notifications when necessary. There is a requirement to amend your pesticide list if you add a new product that was not on your original notification. This amendment is required 48 hours prior to using the new product.

Please contact the Department of Agriculture/Weights & Measures office at (707) 565-2371, and ask to speak with one of our staff if you have questions about this regulation.

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