Sonoma County Department of Agriculture/Weights & Measures July Update

Written By: Tony Linegar, Sonoma County Agricultural Commissioner/Sealer
Published: July 3, 2019

Chlorpyrifos Ban

In a move to protect workers, public health, and the environment, the Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) is acting to ban the use of the pesticide and toxic air contaminant chlorpyrifos in California by initiating cancellation of the pesticide.

The decision to ban chlorpyrifos follows mounting evidence that the pesticide causes serious health effects in children and other sensitive populations at lower levels of exposure than previously understood.

In April, chlorpyrifos was formally listed as a “toxic air contaminant,” which California law defines as “an air pollutant which may cause or contribute to an increase in mortality or an increase in serious illness, or which may pose a present or potential hazard to human health.” The listing requires DPR to develop control measures to protect the health of farm workers
and others living and working near where the pesticide is used.

DPR has determined, in consultation with the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, and the California Air Resources Board, that sufficient additional control measures are not feasible and pushed for a ban on the product. The cancellation process could take up to two years.

In 2015, DPR designated chlorpyrifos as a “restricted material” that requires a permit from the county agricultural commissioner for its application. In addition, applications of chlorpyrifos must be recommended by a licensed pest control advisor and be supervised by a licensed certified applicator.

During the cancellation process, DPR’s recommendations to county agricultural commissioners for tighter permit restrictions on the use of chlorpyrifos will remain in place. Restrictions include a ban on aerial spraying, quarter-mile buffer zones, and limiting use to crop-pest combinations that lack alternatives. The use of chlorpyrifos has decreased significantly over the past decade in Sonoma County, with only 11 applications in 2018. Most of the use of chlorpyrifos in Sonoma County were treatments for vine mealybug on grapes.

The take-home message is: if planting a vineyard, be sure to start with clean vines. The best prevention for vine mealybug is starting with clean nursery stock. All grapevines entering Sonoma County are required to be held for inspection by the Department of Agriculture/Weights & Measures.

The Latest Buzz

For decades, California has had legislation on the books for pollinator protection. Until recently, each County Agricultural Commissioner’s (CAC) office handled the enforcement of apiary regulations differently. Counties experiencing a higher volume of out-of-state beehives arriving during flowering of crops engaged more fully in the enforcement of hive registration, markings, disease inspection, theft prevention, and pesticide use regulations pertaining to bee protection. Some of those CACs had wall maps with pushpins depicting the location of beehives, while some used spreadsheets; no two counties did it the same.

Sonoma County is more of an apiary hobbyist region. Our Department rarely gets calls pertaining to the movement of commercial hives, other apiary questions, or complaints of commercial pesticide applications affecting colonies. Vineyard operations and bees do not often clash, but there are certain situations of concern, and other crop applications, which can more directly affect pollinators and foragers.

As a general rule, insecticides are more toxic to honeybees than fungicides and herbicides. Most insecticides can be applied to crops with little or no hazard to bees. However, because honeybees are insects, they are highly sensitive to several types of insecticides, including neonicotinoids, organophosphates, N-methyl carbamates, and pyrethroids. Most poisonings occur when bee-toxic insecticides are applied to crops during the blooming period. Poisoning of pollinators can also occur from:
• Drift onto adjoining crops or plants that are in bloom;
• Collection of contaminated pollen or nesting materials from crops that do not require bee pollination, and;
• Pollinators drinking from or touching contaminated water sources or dew on recently treated plants.

Information regarding toxicity to bees can be found on the pesticide label. For additional information about specific active ingredients and toxicity to bees, along with links to a downloadable app for Android and iOS, visit

California Food and Agriculture Code sections 29000-29812, requires that beekeepers register their colonies and locations with the local County Agricultural Commissioner. California Code of Regulations sections 6650-6656 also requires that when intending to use a pesticide labeled “toxic to bees” on a flowering plant, the applicator or operator must notify the owners of registered hives which are located within a one-mile radius of the application site at least 48 hours prior to application.

A statewide online program,, allows beekeepers to comply with registration requirements and indicate whether or how they wish to be notified in the event of a pesticide application. This website also allows pest control advisors (PCA) and growers determine if any registered hives are within a mile of their intended application and could harm bees. Without disclosing the exact location of the hives, the PCA or applicator is provided the preferred contact method to inform beekeepers of an impending application. The beekeeper can then take steps to protect the hives.

With this new program, pollinator protection is becoming more accessible and consistent throughout the state. For more information about the apiary protection regulations and, please contact our office at (707) 565-2371.

Harvest Scales

As the 2019 winegrape harvest approaches, the Department of Agriculture/Weights & Measures would like to remind scale operators about the important role their scales play in determining the value of Sonoma County’s winegrape crop. The 2017 Sonoma County Annual Crop Report estimated the total annual winegrape value to be just over $578 million. Commercial scales not only determine the total crop tonnage of winegrapes coming off the vines, but they are also used to determine payments made for harvest-related services such as shipping and hauling services, as well as labor services paid based on the total crop weight that is picked off the vines.

To make this year’s harvest less stressful, take a few minutes to inspect the condition of your scales. Make sure your scales are in good operating condition prior to having your scale inspected by the Department. If your scale is exhibiting erratic weight indications, will not hold a zero balance, or shows physical damage, call a licensed scale repairperson to have your scale serviced. Damaged scale components, severed power cords, or malfunctioning batteries for portable scales may necessitate ordering parts that may not be readily available, delaying your ability to use your scale at the most crucial time of the harvest.

Licensed scale repair companies can be found online or in the phone book under scales. Before hiring any company, make sure they hold a valid license as a service agent registered with the state of California. If you have any questions about their licensing and registration information, please call our office and ask to speak to one of our Weights & Measures inspectors.

As an additional reminder, the Department will be holding their annual crane scale workshop in late July and early August in Healdsburg and Sonoma. If you own or operate a crane scale and
have it registered with our office, you will receive a letter in the mail in early July inviting you to the workshop. Call our office at (707) 565-2371 if you have any questions about the crane workshop or if you would like to schedule a scale inspection prior to the winegrape harvest.

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