Commercial Sprayers Pull Out of Carpinteria Cannabis Deal

Commercial Sprayers Pull Out of Carpinteria Cannabis Deal title=
Commercial Sprayers Pull Out of Carpinteria Cannabis Deal
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Graham Farrar, the owner of Glass House Farms on Casitas Pass Road, and the president of the Carpinteria Association of Responsible Producers, or CARP Growers, said all 27 cannabis growers in the Carpinteria Valley were willing to sign an agreement with the Oxnard pest control companies that spray avocado orchards in the Carpinteria Valley. The companies pulled out because of legal concerns (Photo by Melinda Burns)


By Melinda Burns

The Oxnard pest control companies that spray avocados in the Carpinteria Valley have pulled out of a proposed agreement with cannabis greenhouse operators, saying they can’t risk contaminating the marijuana crop.

Under the deal, cannabis growers in the valley would have agreed not to sue the commercial sprayers during the weeks they normally spray in the spring. The companies would have been able to use pesticides that work well on avocados but are on the state’s “red list” as contaminants for cannabis.

“We’re all disappointed, but we’re just not going to do it,” said Rob Scherzinger, the founder and manager of Aspen Helicopters, Inc., one of four Oxnard pest control companies that work in the Carpinteria Valley. “It’s just a snake-in-the-grass that will bite us one of these days. It’s a potential loss we can’t afford.”

Graham Farrar, president of the Cannabis Association for Responsible Producers, or CARP Growers, said all 27 cannabis growers in the valley had been willing to sign an agreement and cooperate with the commercial sprayers. No commercial cannabis in Carpinteria has tested positive for pesticide “drift” from avocado orchards since testing began three years ago, he said.

The whole dispute started when the cannabis growers gave the commercial sprayers their phone numbers earlier this spring and asked to be notified when spraying began, so that they could close their greenhouse vents, Farrar said. Members of CARP Growers use beneficial insects, not pesticides, on cannabis.

“There’s no grower that’s ever threatened to sue an applicator or an avocado guy,” Farrar said. “No cannabis growers got mad or tried to push anybody out. We were just trying to be good neighbors.”

But the standoff has upended business as usual for Carpinteria avocado growers. They say they will be forced to revert to an organic pesticide they last used 25 years ago, one that is on the state’s “green list” as compatible with cannabis but is not very effective on avocados. If there is an insect infestation in the orchards this spring, they say, they could wind up next year with scarred fruit that resembles Russet potatoes and sells for half the market price.

“So, marijuana growers will make millions and I will lose up to half the value of my crop,” said Sharyne Merritt, who owns 13 acres of organic avocados near Cate School on Casitas Pass Road. “Doesn’t seem fair to me.”

Avocado growers in the Carpinteria Valley such as Scott Van Der Kar say they will be forced to revert to an inferior pesticide this spring, one that is compatible with cannabis but not very effective on avocados (Photo by Melinda Burns)

“It’s happened too quick”

The avocado industry in the Carpinteria Valley is 70 years old and operates on 2,200 acres. Cannabis has been grown in the valley for about five years; the county has said it will limit the crop to 186 acres.

State law prohibits pesticide “drift” on adjacent properties. If even one part per billion of an insecticide on the “red list” is found in a batch of dried marijuana, the entire batch has to be destroyed. Scherzinger said attorneys have advised the commercial sprayers that they cannot be “held harmless” if they break the law.

“It’s happened too quick for us to react,” he said. “We’re afraid of it this year.”

Scherzinger said Aspen would start spraying Carpinteria avocado orchards this week with Veratran, an organic, plant-based insecticide that is on the “green list” for cannabis. Years ago, when he was using it, Scherzinger said, he would get calls from frustrated growers asking, “Did you put anything in the tank?” Veratran doesn’t work well in the overcast weather known locally as “May Gray” and “June Gloom,” the growers say.

“It’s going to have to be sprayed three or four times, so it will cost three or four times as much, and it’s minimally effective,” Merritt said. “But I have no choice.”

“I voted for Proposition 64,” she said, referring to the 2016 ballot initiative that legalized marijuana in California. “But I did not vote for this. I did not vote to be put out of business.”

Merritt, who serves on the county’s Agricultural Advisory Committee, is also concerned about her land on Santa Rosa Road in the Santa Ynez Valley, where a tenant farmer is growing row crops. Three of Merritt’s neighbors have applied for permits to grow cannabis in “hoop houses,” the tunnel-like structures of white plastic that are often used for growing berries.

“This isn’t only about avocados,” Merritt said. “Olives, walnuts, grapes and vegetables all have pests that farmers treat, even organic farmers.”

Members of CARP Growers use beneficial insects, not pesticides, to control pests on the marijuana crop (Photo by Melinda Burns)

“We’re all really close”

County Supervisor Das Williams, who lives in Carpinteria, had urged the cannabis growers to come to an agreement with the commercial sprayers.

“I’m not sure what more they can do,” he said this week. “The cannabis folks have bent over backwards and the lawyers are mucking it up.

“Living in Carpinteria, we’re all really close. We all have our kids in the same schools, recreate on the same beaches and go to the same events. If it was just up to Carpinteria, we would have already figured it out.”

Scott Van Der Kar, who grows avocados, lemons and cherimoyas on 50 acres in the Carpinteria foothills, said the high price of cannabis puts the crop “in an entirely different realm,” from, say, daisies or lettuce next door. A pound of marijuana sells for up to $800; a contaminated 50-pound batch would represent a loss of about $40,000.

Van Der Kar is worried that not only avocados but also lemons may be affected by the pesticide restrictions on cannabis. He sprays his lemon orchards four times yearly to fend off the Asian citrus psyllid, a pest that destroyed half the citrus industry in Florida and made its way to California in 2008.

“With the avocados, we’re just talking about fruit damage,” Van Der Kar said. “With the lemons, we’re talking about losing the fruit tree … Why am I bearing the cost and the negative impacts of this new neighbor? What do we get out of this?”

In Ventura County, where 90,000 acres are in row crops, lemons and avocados, some farmers are beginning to grow hemp, a variety of cannabis that can be used for medicinal oils. Hemp is worth much less than marijuana – about $60,000 per acre vs. millions of dollars per acre – but the potential problems of pesticide contamination are the same, said Andy Calderwood, the Ventura County deputy Agricultural Commissioner.

“It will be a concern for surrounding growers,” he said.

(To view the Resolution of the Board of Directors of CARP Growers, click here)


Melinda Burns is a freelance journalist in Santa Barbara.

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45 Comments

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Emmenanthe May 25, 2019 09:47 AM
Commercial Sprayers Pull Out of Carpinteria Cannabis Deal

AvocadoGrower's comment states that the thrip-damaged fruit is still marketable to the restaurant industry. This suggests that the consequence of avocado thrip infestation on avocados is limited to cosmetic damage: scarring. We silly consumers are so ignorant we don't know the difference between something inedible or "bad" vs. something that isn't pretty. Time for education. Until we consumers get over the cosmetic issue, simple scarring on many kinds of produce will continue to hamper organic growers. Think about the reason those "pretty" foods look so lovely: likely because they've been treated with poison.

a-1568988942 May 25, 2019 10:31 AM
Commercial Sprayers Pull Out of Carpinteria Cannabis Deal

So you're saying avocado growers must accept a declining crop valuation to accommodate the heady profits to be made by the pot growers. Maybe growing hemp along the property lines will show pot growers a similar decline in crop valuation through simple pollination. Darned pot heads should get used to ditch weed again and the return of $20 lids.

Flicka May 24, 2019 07:12 PM
Commercial Sprayers Pull Out of Carpinteria Cannabis Deal

"Pot poisons the body and the air around pot smokers?" Where in the heck does that come from? Pot was made illegal (1930s) not because it was unhealthy or dangerous but to get rid of the Mexicans in the South West. You had to have a permit to have it but had to have it in order to get the permit, in which case "you are illegal" so out you go. The crazy "drug war" against it has only escalated ever since. Between the bogus message in the film "Reefer Madness" and Hearst's yellow journalism people were convinced weed was evil.

avocadogrower May 24, 2019 03:21 PM
Commercial Sprayers Pull Out of Carpinteria Cannabis Deal

There seems to be some confusion about what is being sprayed. The avocado growers want to spray an organically certified product - spinosad . From Jack DeAngelis, PhD OSU Ext. Entomologist (ret.): "Spinosad is a natural insecticide. The active ingredients in spinosad, spinosyn A and spinosyn D, are complex organic compounds made by soil microbes. Spinosad is a broad-spectrum pesticide but is only active if ingested or contacted while in liquid form, so has little residual effect on most beneficial species." Instead, all that can be used is Veritran which is permitted on pot but is minimally effective on Avocado thrip. If avocados are scared by thrips, their wholesale price is cut in half and they are sold to restaurants not retail.

a-1568988942 May 24, 2019 12:27 PM
Commercial Sprayers Pull Out of Carpinteria Cannabis Deal

"forced to revert to an organic pesticide they used 25 years ago . . ." So these avo growers have been using toxic spray on the the avocado crops and likely contaminating the surrounding area for a quarter of a decade? Excuse me, while I go shed a buttload of crocodile tears.

a-1568988942 May 28, 2019 08:34 AM
Commercial Sprayers Pull Out of Carpinteria Cannabis Deal

Uh no. Got it totally wrong. Tonight's homework: familiarize oneself with pest control methods used for certified organic food crop production. Tomorrow night: State of CA pesticide and chemical regulations for cannabis Discussion: Is there a difference and why?

Flicka May 24, 2019 10:17 AM
Commercial Sprayers Pull Out of Carpinteria Cannabis Deal

Avacado skins are "not eaten", but cutting into them contaminates the inside. I wouldn't want o live next to one of these sprayed orchards, the "drift" contaminates neighbors' properties. We've had avocado orchards, up to 5 acres, but never had any reason to spray as the trees were perfectly healthy.

Factotum May 24, 2019 11:00 AM
Commercial Sprayers Pull Out of Carpinteria Cannabis Deal

Keep your liver healthy. It is the body's remarkable detoxifying organ, doing exactly what it was intended to do - neutralize outside contaminants. Taking care of any food grade foreign residue from a knife cut on an avocado skin is well within the liver's job description. Or simply wash your avocados if there is continuing concerns. Those who do have compromised livers from drug, alcohol abuse or systemic conditions, of course need to take extra precautions. Lab tests can confirm status of one's liver condition. Get to know the powers of your wonderful liver, and treat it with all due respect.

a-1568988942 May 24, 2019 01:52 PM
Commercial Sprayers Pull Out of Carpinteria Cannabis Deal

@ A-1558730989 2 1 MAY 23, 2019 06:25 PM --------Aren't meth operations highly combustible, though? I say they convert to scream rooms. There's a ton of money to be made, untapped mountain of gold. Charge people to go into a sound-proof room and scream their heads off. Good therapy and easy money.

pstarSR May 25, 2019 01:58 PM
Commercial Sprayers Pull Out of Carpinteria Cannabis Deal

I never said they used it on marijuana. they are saying the pesticides they spray on avocados is bad. and the company doesnt want to risk being sued for any "contamination" from drift...... so if its bad on marijuana, it would be bad on avocados........ get it?

monkeyboy May 23, 2019 02:58 PM
Commercial Sprayers Pull Out of Carpinteria Cannabis Deal

It's hard to read sarcasm over the internet, so I will give you the benefit of the doubt. No one could, in their right mind, think that 186 acres of a totally new crop should potentially destroy 2200 acres of avocados that have been grown here for generations just because "muh medicine". Growing in Carpinteria makes little sense when there are thousands of acres being grown in northern california anyways.

Lucky 777 May 23, 2019 11:56 AM
Commercial Sprayers Pull Out of Carpinteria Cannabis Deal

The important point is: "Under the deal, cannabis growers in the valley would have agreed not to sue the commercial sprayers during the weeks they normally spray in the spring." So, they could sue the next month ???........ for crop losses once the contaminant drift made their pot unsellable. Pot growers need to find nice places where they can set up their hoop houses in isolation from crops, create organic Shangri-Las. That's essentially what the Emerald Triangle up North is. Asking all the other farmers in this area to be forced to switch to organic methods is a noble goal but an unlikely scenario. Much as I would like to have all farming be done organic, this is a feast for lawyers.

Bug Girl May 23, 2019 02:34 PM
Commercial Sprayers Pull Out of Carpinteria Cannabis Deal

It was a poorly phrased sentence that stood out to me as well. It was explained in a prior independent article that the deal they were getting the growers to sign (at that point, 20 out of 27 had signed) agreed to not sue the sprayers for spraying during the specific weeks that they were agreeing upon, and informing them of. Thus, if they weren't notified (spraying out of the allotted time frame stated by the avo growers) they might not know to close their vents, and drift spray contamination could occur. They could then sue over that. Thing is, a little drift isn't really an issue for the pot farmers in many cases, if their crops aren't flowering yet. The final product of dried flowers just can't have any residue.

a-1568988942 May 23, 2019 10:21 AM
Commercial Sprayers Pull Out of Carpinteria Cannabis Deal

“I voted for Proposition 64,” she said, referring to the 2016 ballot initiative that legalized marijuana in California. “But I did not vote for this. I did not vote to be put out of business.” Voting has consequences. Sorry, not sorry.

PitMix May 23, 2019 09:51 AM
Commercial Sprayers Pull Out of Carpinteria Cannabis Deal

Can the avo growers sue the pot growers over the decrease in profits? I guess it might take a lot of money that they don't have, and the potters are a very well funded industry. County really messed up when they allowed pot growers to be located next to exiting agriculture.

Flicka May 23, 2019 09:03 AM
Commercial Sprayers Pull Out of Carpinteria Cannabis Deal

I have read cannabis is not an agricultural crop. I just wonder why not? It grows in dirt and is digestible so what makes it "non-agricultural? I believe commercially grown flowers here in Carp are considered an agricultural crop.

a-1568988942 May 23, 2019 10:05 AM
Commercial Sprayers Pull Out of Carpinteria Cannabis Deal

There are plenty of things that grow in the dirt and are digestable - they are also illegal. Hemp on the other hand is on the Farm Bill and recognized as an agricultural crop. Hemp also doesn't have any land use restrictions so you could see this plant pop up right next to a school and it would be "legal."

PitMix May 23, 2019 09:47 AM
Commercial Sprayers Pull Out of Carpinteria Cannabis Deal

I think previously someone said that it is not ingested for nutrition, that it is ingested for its drug effects, and therefore is considered a drug. The feds consider it a dangerous drug similar to heroin. That is why they are saying it is not strictly an ag product like an avo.

SantaBarbaraObserver May 23, 2019 08:36 AM
Commercial Sprayers Pull Out of Carpinteria Cannabis Deal

What kind of messed up world do these avo growers live in that they think they have a right to poison the air, the soil, the plants and the water so they can squeeze more profits out of their trees? There is NOTHING about an avocado ranch that is a necessity to anyone except to the owners income. Profits are not more important than the communities health. And most certainly, these avocado grower's profits are no more important than any other grower, farmer, rancher or person nearby. So if they cant make it work, without harm to others, then they should raze their orchards and move onto something less harmful to the whole... There is no birthright or any other right to ranch, farm or poison the earth and perhaps most importantly, there is no right to profits.

a-1568988942 May 23, 2019 10:36 AM
Commercial Sprayers Pull Out of Carpinteria Cannabis Deal

SB Observer said Avocado's are not a necessity... and cannibals certainly isn't either. This is a private business dispute that should be handled among themselves, and the business that harms other properties by their activities isn't going to win just because they were doing it first. I'm a big fan of doing whatever you want on your private property as long as it doesn't affect others.

a-1568988942 May 23, 2019 08:02 AM
Commercial Sprayers Pull Out of Carpinteria Cannabis Deal

Difficult times yet raises some interesting questions. Is the cannabis industry too strict? Are avocado growers too lax? Better understanding the "red list" and why it's specific to one indsutry and not others would help. Also, interesting is one of the avocado growers uses this now prohibitive pesticide on organic trees. Most people don't realize this regarding organics. I'm sure a functional middle ground exists so hope it can be found. I know one thing> Over spraying a weaker insecticide multiple times is NOT an effective solution either financially or chemically, even if it fits through loop holes.

Factotum May 23, 2019 10:01 AM
Commercial Sprayers Pull Out of Carpinteria Cannabis Deal

Harvard weighs in on the NYT article about this French study: “From a practical point of view, the results are still preliminary, and not sufficient to change dietary recommendations about cancer prevention,” said Dr. Frank B. Hu, one of the authors of the commentary and the chairman of the department of nutrition at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. He said it was more important for Americans to simply eat more fruits and vegetables, whether the produce is organic or not, if they want to prevent cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends consuming a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains instead of refined grains and limited amounts of red meat, processed meat and added sugars."

a-1568988942 May 23, 2019 09:56 AM
Commercial Sprayers Pull Out of Carpinteria Cannabis Deal

The list refers to materials that are deemed "acceptable" by CADPR. Most of those materials are some sort of mineral oil. Marijuana is still federally illegal which is why you do not see it listed on any pesticide labels.

PitMix May 23, 2019 09:49 AM
Commercial Sprayers Pull Out of Carpinteria Cannabis Deal

Just read an article about a study that demonstrates that people eating more organic produce and less red meat have lower rates specific types of cancer. Sorry to introduce some facts into the discussion.

SantaBarbaraObserver May 23, 2019 09:45 AM
Commercial Sprayers Pull Out of Carpinteria Cannabis Deal

Denying the impact of petrol-chemicals and other toxic mixes on the health and well being of humans, millions of animals and insects and the earth itself is beyond stupid. The unfettered use of petrol-chemicals and other non-organic mixes in the last 80-100 years might be among the dumbest things we humans have done on this planet and to our bodies. Only a fool would look at the science and the evidence think otherwise. There is virtually no benefit to these chemicals other than the increases of yield to assure higher profits for a few.... Time and time again, its been proven that the use of these types of pesticides. herbicides and other chemicals is harmful. Which is the point Facto. There in NO HARM to being better stewards of the land, the air and the water. Except maybe to a person who holds profits higher than principles or the well being of their kids. In that case its no surprise that that person would deny their impact and ignore their harm.

a-1568988942 May 23, 2019 08:52 AM
Commercial Sprayers Pull Out of Carpinteria Cannabis Deal

Not so much too strict, but cautious in the face of lack of knowledge. There just aren't any studies on how smoking a product with pesticide on it affects someone short and long term. Avocado skin is generally not eaten, which is probably why more "questionable" pesticides can be used.

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