The primary concern of the Kern County Department of Agriculture and Measurement Standards is to both protect and promote agricultural industries in Kern County, while ensuring that the consumer is treated fairly.

Every year, Kern County agriculture faces new challenges. This year has seen a much-needed period of extensive precipitation that will aid not only in water availability and production for the current year, but will eventually help to replenish our low water table, which has been put under so much stress over the past several years.

However, this rain is a double-edged sword. Most often this winter, the rains were accompanied by heavy winds and tended to come in large waves that led to much flooding. The flooding and wind has led to some crop loss as well. Farmers definitely welcome this water as a whole, but in no way can one year of above average rain drag us out of the ongoing drought.

With this in mind, Kern County growers continue to use innovative equipment and implement water-saving programs to make the best use of the water available to them. As a county, we are also continuing down the road of planting more and more types of crops, that are more drought tolerant and are better able to make use of lower available water overall and still produce a viable crop. This general shift is from annual crops to permanent acreage, such as trees and vines, as these are easier to irrigate with targeted drip irrigation that conserves more water overall.

We continue to trap for the Asian citrus psyllid throughout the county. We still have not found citrus greening disease (huanglongbing) in the county and our desire is to never find it.

Still, we have gotten a lot of cooperation from citrus growers in tarping their loads and restricting movement in ways that will mitigate the spread of ACP as much as possible. We definitely remain optimistic that we can keep the pest controlled and minimize the impact to the industry as a result.

Recently, our office also initiated a pilot program whereby growers voluntarily provide 48-hour notice to rural high schools of pesticide applications, which are to take place during school hours or when school activities are occurring. This project is being used as a model for a similar statewide notification requirement that will soon be taking effect.

Our department is continually thankful that farmers, applicators and farmworkers are so willing to communicate effectively using programs like Spray Safe to ensure that pesticides are used in the safest manner possible.

— Glenn Fankhauser is the assistant director of the Kern County Department of Agriculture and Measurement Standards.

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