California Steps Up Enforcement Actions on Pesticide Laws

The California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) said this year will step up enforcement actions against those who violate pesticide licensing laws and potentially endanger people and the environment.

This follows a spate of incidents in 2018 in which DPR’s investigations discovered offenders who falsified records and violated other laws designed to ensure that pesticide applicators are properly trained and licensed before offering their services to the public.

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The latest and most egregious case involved a six-month investigation that resulted in a $50,000 fine for a Tulare County company for the unauthorized possession, reproduction and distribution of parts of DPR licensing exams.

“Part of DPR’s function is to ensure that pesticides, including those used in agriculture, are handled properly and the individuals handling them are properly trained and licensed,” said Teresa Marks, Chief Deputy Director of DPR. “These exams are a way of ensuring that applicators have the required knowledge of how to apply pesticides in a manner that does not adversely affect themselves, other individuals, or the environment. People who cheat the system can inadvertently endanger the public.”

The company, P&L Marketing Inc., based in Visalia, claims on its website that it offers people a one-day exam preparation class that helps them pass California Agricultural Pesticide License Exams on the first attempt.

After receiving a tip, DPR carried out an investigation and discovered that P&L Marketing was giving material to its students that was remarkably similar to the official DPR exam. In fact, more than half of the questions were identical or nearly identical to DPR’s official exam due to be given the next day. The subjects included landscape maintenance, plant agriculture and microbial pest control. Further investigation revealed that many of the 20-plus exams that were to be given to potential licensees had also been compromised.

P&L Marketing admitted to violating California Food and Agricultural Code Section 11792, subdivision (e), which makes it unlawful to cheat or subvert a licensing exam. This includes the unauthorized possession, reproduction or distribution of any portion of the exam. As a result, the company has agreed to pay the fine.

DPR has re-written many exams to continue to ensure the integrity of its examination process and will be increasing its focus on this issue in the future.

In 2018, DPR fined two other offenders for pesticide licensing violations. You can see the settlement agreements here.