California Pesticide Restrictions Rejected

Published November 1, 2008

Stringent pesticide restrictions for California’s San Joaquin Valley region, initially ordered by a federal district court in 2006, have been refuted and vacated in a unanimous verdict by a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

The California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) had enacted rules requiring farmers in the San Joaquin Valley and Ventura County to reduce their pesticide spraying by 20 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2012. Environmental activists then sued DPR, claiming the department was not acting quickly enough to reduce pesticide spraying, which they say contributes to regional smog.

A federal district judge agreed with the activists and ordered DPR to impose a 2009 deadline on farmers to meet the pesticide reduction requirement.

Court Exceeded Jurisdiction

In an appeal to the Ninth Circuit Appellate Court, DPR and affected farmers argued the district judge had overstepped his authority in modifying DPR’s 2012 deadline. A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit unanimously agreed.

“As it carefully worked through the parties’ labyrinthine administrative law arguments, the [district] court acknowledged that its rulings were potentially incongruous,” the Appellate Court observed. “We agree. In our view, the district court ultimately exceeded its jurisdiction.”

“We look forward to working with DPR to discuss ways agriculture can continue to do its part to improve air quality,” said Rob Roy, president and general counsel for the Ventura County Agricultural Association.

“Winning in federal court represents a clear and total vindication for our claim that the [district court-imposed] regulations were unnecessary and without any merit,” Roy said.

James M. Taylor ([email protected]) is a senior fellow of The Heartland Institute and managing editor of Environment & Climate News.