Avocado and Cannabis Growers Struggle over Insecticides

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Scott Van Der Kar, an avocado grower in the Carpinteria foothills, thought he was immune to the cannabis controversy that has roiled neighborhoods closer to town.

Van Der Kar’s 50 acres on Shepard Mesa Road, where he also has lemons and cherimoyas, have been unaffected by the skunk-like stench from cannabis greenhouses and the semi-trailer truck traffic that has triggered a barrage of opposition in the valley below. Even as the Carpinteria Valley became a mecca for commercial cannabis cultivation, the 70-year-old avocado industry was conducting business as usual … until now.

“The cannabis industry has forced significant impacts on the community and expected the community to adjust,” Van Der Kar said. “Once it starts reaching into the orchard business, all of a sudden it gets personal.”

Last month, he said, avocado growers were “broadsided” by the news that the Oxnard-based pest control companies that treat their crops would no longer spray the insecticides that work best on avocados, for fear of contaminating cannabis crops with the slightest trace of residue and getting sued.

“This has come to the forefront so quickly that people are turning every which way to try to figure out what to do,” Van Der Kar said. “We’re reeling from it.”

The growers’ quandary has sent county officials scrambling to find a solution, and there’s not a moment to lose. Spraying takes only a couple of hours or a couple of days, but the window for next year’s crop is now through June, to prevent the trees from defoliating and the avocados from turning brown, like Russet

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