Pictured: Ron Whitehurst of Ventura-based Rincon-Vitova Insectaries, Inc. Photo submitted.
by Kimberly Rivers
Last month West Ventura resident Ron Whitehurst, pest control advisor and co-owner of Rincon-Vitova Insectaries Inc., was named to a new 26-member working group aimed at shifting the state’s agricultural operations away from the use of harmful chemicals, a stated goal of Gov. Gavin Newsom.
“Transitioning away from toxic pesticides requires us to speed up the development of effective alternatives,” said Jared Blumenfeld, secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency. “By giving our farmers a suite of integrated pest management tools, we can better protect farmworkers and some of California’s most vulnerable communities. This dynamic task force will give us the roadmap to achieve this bold vision.”
Whitehurst with the other members of the new Sustainable Pest Management Work Group will work over the next 18 months to advise the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) in developing policies to use non-chemical means for management of pest issues in agriculture.
Taking a whole systems perspective, Whitehurst has developed his biological pest control knowledge over a lifetime of organic farming and gardening, and through working with mentor and Rincon-Vitova founder Everett J. “Deke” Dietrick, who pioneered effective biological control methods with his “Five Features of Ecologically Based Pest Management,” over 50 years ago.
In October of last year, Newsom signed an order (1) citing the climate crisis and advancing directives to various state agencies including the California Environmental Protection Agency and California Department of Food and Agriculture to “reinvigorate populations of pollinator insects across the state, which restore biodiversity and improve agricultural production.” The directive includes implementation of “strategic efforts to protect California’s native plants and animals from invasive species and pests that threaten biodiversity and economic activities,” as well as to “enhance soil health and biodiversity through the Healthy Soils Initiative.”
Newsom’s order led to a plan to increase fees associated with pesticide use, which will be used to fund programs initiated by the new order, including the new work group.
Historically, the fees were standardized for all chemicals, regardless of level of toxicity. A tiered system is being considered with increased fees for chemicals that the state rates as more dangerous. The fee structure also brings back the Biologically Integrated Farming System (BIFS) programs using farmer-to-farmer and farmworker pest management training in organic and regenerative systems to build healthy soils with greater organic carbon, increased water holding capacity and resilient crop yields.
Rincon-Vitova Insectaries, Inc., is located off of Ventura Avenue at 108 Orchard Drive and since 1950 has promoted ecologically-based agriculture solutions by providing beneficial organisms to enhance suppression and management of pests and diseases.