May 25, 2016
Six months after more than two dozen students and staff fell ill at Coachella Valley High School due to herbicides drifting from an agricultural field across the street onto campus, the Riverside County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office has proposed a $5,000 fine for the grower, Amazing Coachella, Inc., which does business as Peter Rabbit Farms.
Community activists are critical of the Agricultural Commissioner’s fine. They said $5,000 is a slap on the wrist for a grower as large as Amazing Coachella, Inc., which has growing areas in the Coachella Valley, Imperial Valley, San Jacinto, Bakersfield and Lancaster and ships across the U.S. and Canada.
“Our position is that the fine is significantly lower than what it could have been,” said Blaz Gutierrez directing attorney for the California Rural Legal Assistance Coachella office. “The $5,000 fine is not really a deterrent. I don’t know what the (Department of Pesticide Regulations) and the Ag Commissioner are trying to accomplish.”
Gutierrez said that the $5,000 fine could have been levied on a per person basis, based on how many people experienced symptoms of nausea and dizziness.
Deputy Agricultural Commissioner Mulherin said the Agricultural Commissioner’s office determined that a $5,000 fine was appropriate based on the investigation and the evidence they gathered.
Organizations mentioned/involved: California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc. (CRLA)