From East Bay Pesticide Alert's Max Ventura [emphases added by web-handler]
510-895-2312 2399, E. 14th St. #24, San Leandro, CA 94577

805-681-5600 fax: 805-661-5603
263 Camino Del Remedio, Santa Barbara 93110

I spoke with Ag. Commissioner, William Gillette

M: I asked about whether whole county is called infested

W: Parts of Santa Barbara County are separated by the Santa Ynez mountains. The South part of the area of the Santa Ynez is called infested; North of the mountain range they found a single GWSS last summer. The South Coast area, as they call it, they call generally infested. Biocontrol and weather contribute to low populations, generally hard to find. The State considers the South area a regulated area for the purpose of plan if urban area is called infested. The model everyone seems to be looking at is Temecula and Tulare…. High populations, easy to see. We don't see that.

M: I asked what they would do if an "infestation" were to be called in S. B.

W: Santa Barbara's biological control is 95% so their plan doesn't make sense for us. We found the one GWSS in a grape area in Santa Ynez. We spent 3 weeks going house to house. If we'd found additional we would evaluate how long there; how close to the vineyards; what is effectiveness of spray programs in the state; look at host plants and chemicals; look at best options; have public meetings; describe what we're going to do.

If you take GWSS, we know it's been here since '93. Biocontrol is at over 90%. We have low population. Spray programs like Kern are not even approaching that. Maybe it's hotter in those areas. If we're getting 90-95%, if I can get 95% vs. 75%….

M: I went on with where he seemed to be going, saying, "It's a no-brainer, eh?" to which he replied,

W: There's a lot of no-brainers that go into this program. Also, if you kill beneficials we might find in Fresno and Tulare that there are explosions of GWSS. Logic tells me if I got really lucky and my staff found egg masses on a plant just planted we'd pull out the plant. They move around. To just go out and spray…. We haven't ruled anything out. Take Santa Barbara or Oxnard coastal areas. It's hard to find GWSS. But go 20 miles inland to Santa Barbara Filmore area-citrus-there's a temperature component and host relationships. In coastal, cooler areas, we'd expect to see… maybe up to Santa Cruz area, maybe up to the Bay Area, some predators up here-they just don't hold the population as well. Looking to Mexico for a wasp. I wouldn't be surprised if GWSS got established, a natural predator would go with it but don't know if they'd (predators) survive.

If I 'd have to guess now, I would say citrus is a problem- we're not finding in some other areas. It's pretty elementary.

About cooler temperatures, there's a range of where the GWSS can and can't live--- it can live in Santa Barbara but doesn't build up to populations of any concern. You have to look hard even to find old egg scars. The GWSS is kept in check by populations (of predators). The vineyard industry wants a rapid response. They would like spray rigs warmed up and by the barn, waiting.

M: I asked about the Santa Barbara workplan

W: There's a section about pesticide use. It implies that that's the first direction we're going that when, clearly, we're not planning on using pesticides. Why would I walk into a Sonoma situation? Those are effects based on what? So here's a question… we can have a philosophical discussion. Napa was at some point talking about nursery plants. We have "infested" nurseries down here shipping up. We inspect plant materials going out and in. I think everyone realizes that's the best approach. Our approach is that everything that comes in is inspected.

The initial submission took 3 months to get back and was rejected. CDFA says, "Yours isn't complete in terms of chemical Rapid Response Plan."

M: I asked what their response would be to organic farmers

W: If you're organic we might give some options we might not give to others. The approach we're taking is: It's up to you-you abate and we'll be right behind you. You know what to do.

M: I asked what they plan to do if they find GWSS in a residential area

W: The vineyard industry, they want you to do it, right or wrong. You can understand, they are afraid, but you can't always operate from fear. That's not real in some situations. I've been pretty well beaten up by them for taking some of the stances you and I are taking about this all.

M: I asked how much acreage Santa Barbara has in organics.

W: Grapes… less than 100 acres. But people are trying stuff and not yet registered. With the new standards that will change and then we'll have a better idea of how much organic growing we have. There are 54 organic farms… avocados and veggies… grapes are a small percentage.
Clearly, it's (the Pierce's Disease Control Plan of the CDFA) written by the vineyard industry, is the easiest way you can put it." This is not different than Temecula…. When you have bulldozers plowing vineyards under and the GWSS in the thousands being shown in the media, of course grape growers get scared.

M: I brought up Sudden Oak Death Syndrome and how by following media in the Bay Area and a San Jose Mercury News spread of a couple month ago, it is apparent that the State's approach is the same: yell emergency and push chemicals.

W: That's coming out of UC, much to my dismay. I'm perfectly OK taking the rap for the county or state when we make a mistake. I've been vocal about that… it's carefully written. They say materials to use but say they don't know if they are effective or how to use them! It's just wrong. It's a classic… we have a problem…people want answers now. We jump the gun to take the pressure off but can't put out info that way. Yeah, the pattern is pretty similar. That one's coming from the UC.

If you want to be really cynical, this fight (around the GWSS) involves a lot of job security.
The key is buying enough time.

M: When I mentioned the 6-year plan aspect of the PDCP he hadn't even known it was set up that way and talked about how this isn't how he looks at a program. He says he looks at problem and works on a plan to deal with it but can't imagine setting a plan like that, a plan to have a program like the GWSS/PDCP in place for such a long time like that. Rather, he says, you evaluate and reevaluate over time and get what you need from the state over time.

M: We talked about lack of communication between CDFA and Ag. Commissioners statewide and he expressed concern, citing a recent interaction with the Santa Cruz Ag. Comm., Dave Moeller.

W: Six weeks ago I was talking with Dave Moeller and he wasn't even aware of biocontrol in coastal areas like his. He didn't know of success.

M: I told him that I wasn't surprised to hear this, frankly, as my experience has been over the last year, talking with mostly Ag. Commissioners and several Asst. Ag. Comm. and many Deputy Ag. Comm., representing 14 counties, that often they have no idea of successes without the use of toxics or even details about pesticide actions in other counties.