Ag at Large: Pest control enters a new generation

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It hardly seems possible, but several of the pest control advisors that farmers and growers depend on are beginning to retire. Some of us have just begun to know and appreciate PCAs for who they are and what they do.

Many in the environmental community have refused to even acknowledge them, mostly because their advice primarily deals with the use of agricultural chemicals. On the other hand, farmers have grown to appreciate them because their counsel often leads to lighter or less frequent applications of costly agricultural chemicals, and usually to better, more specific control of costly pests and crop diseases.

To help deal with the generational changes taking place in the PCA profession, the association that has represented these experts since its inception 50 years ago is undergoing a monumental revision and update. In the process, the offices of the California Association of Pest Control Advisers (CAPCA) are being moved from Sacramento to the agricultural heartland of Visalia, the county seat of Tulare County.

However, instead of softening its communication ties with state legislators, CAPCA has named the veteran legal firm of Kahn, Soares & Conway, LLP as a lobbyist and legislative watchdog. Although that law firm’s home is in Hanford, it has maintained a strong and vocal presence in Sacramento for years, and currently expresses an agricultural point of view through its representation of several of the state’s most active agricultural associations.

CAPCA’s facelift and move to the Central Valley includes new administrative leadership. It has appointed Ruthann Anderson as its executive director and chief administrator. She will be responsible for transferring, re-establishing and maintaining the group’s new office in Visalia. As representative of CAPCA’s board of directors, she will be responsible for new and expansive programs as well as day-to-day maintenance and service.

Near the top of the list of her responsibilities will be the launch of what CAPCA identifies as a new initiative called “CAPCA at the center of plant health.” The organization’s chairman of the board, Rick Wescott, also a Visalian, stated the goal clearly: “The challenge is to get as much of their [those leaving the profession] knowledge and experience in the hand and minds of new PCAs before the veterans retire.”

The restructuring and rejuvenation includes the hiring of Adam Barsanti as outreach relations manager. He will work with lawmakers, regulators and allied farm groups to extend the initiative.

As CAPCA spokespeople announced the organization’s aggressive new approach it acknowledged its roots as well, reporting the retirement of Stan Strew after 50 years as its executive director and founder. Strew enjoyed a close relation with California farmers and their organizations from CAPCA’s beginning and before.

While retirements for many CAPCA members are on the horizon, the association’s 3,200 members include 3,000 of California’s 4,000 licensed pest control advisors.

Some CAPCA members represent the chemical companies that research, manufacture and provide specific chemical compounds that perform various services that farmers and ranchers need. They supply nutrients for animals and agricultural crops, compounds that control weeds, insects and disease, and others that preserve freshness and taste in commodities as they are shipped to market. Their research efforts and expenditures in arriving at these products are enormous.

Newcomers entering agriculture these days might wonder how farming prospered and maintained itself in the days before pest control advisors were available. Even veteran farmers may wonder.

As CAPCA advances its initiative and as new recruits join its forces, California’s dynamic agricultural empire is sure to prosper with it and because of it.