Stanislaus County declares emergency to save tomato crop

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

In January, a new statewide regulation went into effect changing the way farmers are allowed to use a certain pesticide.

MODESTO, Calif. — Tomatoes are one of Stanislaus County’s top ten commodities, valued at over $53 million, and the effort to save that crop has put fields across the county under an emergency declaration.

With much of the county’s nearly 10,000 acres of tomato fields in the pre-flowering stage, now is the season for beet leafhoppers, a pest that migrates each spring from the foothills to the valley.

“They’re the only transmitter of beet curly top virus,” said Stanislaus County Agriculture Commissioner Linda Pinfold. “When they feed, that’s when they transmit beet curly top virus and that’s what stunts, kills, turns them yellow.”

It’s not a new problem — the pests and their crop-killing virus were first discovered in the state in the early 1900s, and there’s already a pesticide designed to deter it. But in January came a new statewide regulation restricting the use of neonicotinoid pesticides.

“It was put in place to protect the honeybees,” said Pinfold. “But in doing so, it was missed as to the impacts on the tomato industry.”

According to Pinfold, the impact of the new regulation could be drastic if left unchallenged.

“It’s important to our economy, but on top of that, it’s important to people so they can be assured that they’re going to be able to have a ready supply of tomatoes that they’ll be able to purchase,” said Pinfold. “If (farmers) don’t have this tool, they could lose their crop very easily.”

With the threat of a tomato harvest season lost to pests, Pinfold challenged the regulation, proposing an emergency declaration allowing tomato farmers to apply to use the pesticides.

The county’s Board of Supervisors approved the 60-day declaration Tuesday. Pinfold said she doesn’t expect to extend the emergency because the tomato plants should be less vulnerable to those pests in 60 days.

“They can’t just apply and use the pesticide. They have to have a pest control advisor and write a pest control recommendation,” said Pinfold. “It’s a very important step and a process to help support our growers.”

This tiny bug threatens to thwart the year’s tomato harvest after a new state regulation went into effect this year limiting a certain pesticide. Now Stanislaus County is declaring an emergency to help save its $53M annual harvest. Hear more in my story on @ABC10 at 5, 6 and 6:30

— Gabriel Porras (@Gabriel_Porras_) May 15, 2024

Housing versus agriculture: California’s growing battleground | ABC10 Originals

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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.