Insecticide spraying on land adjacent to farmland can help build a protective halo around crops, which is why a judge’s order in Sacramento County, California, has many in agriculture worried.
The judge told officials to stop spraying on public and private property to control insects that threaten the state’s $45 billion agriculture industry. The decision doesn’t affect on-farm use, but it restricts the use of insecticides on vegetation in parks, school properties, and even homeowners’ backyards, according to reporting by the Los Angeles Times.
The ruling comes as the California Department of Food and Agriculture faced a lawsuit from environmental groups, such as the Center for Biological Diversity and MOMS Advocating Sustainability, which accused the agency of spraying under the guise of emergency provisions so as to avoid having to disclose any potential health risks from the sprays.
The concerns from growers include the fact that this ruling may contribute to an increase in the area from dozens of crop-damaging pests, such as the Asian citrus psyllid, which carries bacteria that have decimated the citrus industry in Brazil and Florida. The government will instead have to turn to alternative tactics, such as releasing sterilized wasps that prey on the aphid-like insects.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the state Department of Food and Agriculture said Monday it will consider appealing the case and will continue to conduct spraying “in compliance with” state environmental laws. It did not elaborate on the impact of the injunction.