County Agricultural Commissioners
Each Agricultural Commissioner is charged with the protection of California agriculture, protection of the environment, as well as protection of the public's health and safety. These goals are accomplished through the management of programs designed to achieve our mission through a combination of public outreach, industry education and various regulatory actions when appropriate.
County Agricultural Commissioners carry out the programs listed below to accomplish these goals.
In Riverside County, pest exclusion represents the first line of defense against the invasion of exotic insects, plant diseases, weeds, and vertebrate pests that threaten agriculture, landscaped areas, and the environment. The introduction and establishment of new pests adversely affects our natural environment, as well as negatively impacting our economy. Upon arrival into the county, all “suspect and high risk” shipments of plant material must be held for inspection. These inspections are conducted to assure compliance with the many existing state and federal quarantines.
State licensed inspectors conduct inspections at the United Parcel Service and Federal Express as well as at other facilities (nurseries, planting sites, parks, and grain mills) that regularly receive shipments of plant material from other counties, states and countries. Inspectors also check domestic shipments of household items arriving from the East Coast for the larvae and egg masses of the highly destructive Gypsy Moth. On the East Coast, the Gypsy Moth is prevalent and causes millions of dollars in damage to trees and other landscape vegetation.
The plant quarantine section of the pest exclusion program includes the monitoring of research permits issued by both the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). Shipments of plant material into the county under authority of such a permit may remain in post-entry quarantine for a period of up to two years.
To facilitate the shipment of the wide variety of locally produced agricultural products out of Riverside County, “Phytosanitary Certificates” must be issued are issued for agricultural commodities which have been inspected, and found free from pests and diseases, in order to meet the specific plant quarantine requirements of the receiving county, state or country.
Pest detection is our second line of defense aimed at preventing the introduction and spread of injurious pests not known to occur in our state and county through a systematic search for specific target pests. This is accomplished by deploying various insect specific detection traps in agricultural as well as in urban areas, making visual surveys, inspecting selected hosts, and informing and educating the agricultural industry and the public.
Pest eradication programs must be implemented immediately after an exotic pest has been detected. The goal is to eliminate initial or incipient exotic populations before they can become established and before they can negatively impact agricultural operations, home gardens, landscape plantings, and natural habitats. Pest eradication projects can employ a variety of control strategies and often rely on the latest “best management” practices using “integrated pest management” (IPM), which is an holistic approach that often combines the use of biological control, pest specific cultural practices, as well as the judicious use of target specific registered pesticides. These projects are often partially or completely under the jurisdiction of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. In some cases however, the County Agricultural Commissioner, as the local authority, takes the lead role, as is the case in enforcing host free periods for the pink bollworm, a serious insect pest of Riverside County’s cotton crop.
Pest management includes positive pest identification, and the monitoring of pest populations, essential in determining action/control thresholds. In collaboration with the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the Riverside County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office assists the agricultural community, and the public in the identification of important insect, weed, and disease pests, and suggests control options and alternatives. The vertebrate pest management program provides published literature and advice on a cooperative basis to growers and the public for the control of such vertebrate pests as gophers, ground squirrels, and crop depredating bird pests. In appropriate situations, an agricultural burn permit may be issued for the control of certain diseases.
PESTICIDE USE ENFORCEMENT
The pesticide use enforcement program, as mandated by the California Food and Agricultural Code and the California Code of Regulations, serves to oversee, monitor and evaluate the application, recordkeeping, storage and sale of all registered pesticide products. One important goal of this program is to effectively protect the public, field workers, pesticide applicators, agricultural crops, landscaped areas, and the environment, from any adverse effects of pesticides resulting from misuse or improper handling. This is accomplished through the administration of the many regulatory requirements directed at the activities of professional pest control operators (agricultural and structural), pest control advisors, pest control dealers, private applicators (growers), as well as other pesticide users county-wide.
Pesticide users are required to obtain the proper permits or other documents from the Agricultural Commissioner’s Office prior to the purchase and commercial or agricultural use of a pesticide. In addition, licensed inspectors provide education and outreach to the agricultural industry, growers, and others in the community regarding the safe and effective application of pesticides. Our department encourages and expects compliance with all applicable laws and regulations governing pesticide use. This comprehensive program makes agricultural commodities produced within Riverside County and California among the safest in the world.
The Agricultural Commissioner’s staff performs routine inspections, at both retail and wholesale establishments that sell seed, in order to verify compliance with statewide seed requirements. Samples are drawn and analyzed for purity, germination percentage, kind or variety, weed seed content, and for proper labeling. Through this program, specific seed certification services are also performed for growers and processors, in cooperation with the California Crop Improvement Association. This service certifies compliance with the proper production and handling criteria of seed grown within our county, ensuring that it meets the quality standards necessary for certification to other states and countries.
The Agricultural Commissioner’s Office inspects all plant production nurseries annually for the presence of any and all pests injurious to plants. In addition, inspectors issue shipping permits, nursery stock certificates, and a variety of other required certificates in order to facilitate the movement of nursery stock within the channels of trade. Inspections of incoming shipments of nursery stock, plant quarantine enforcement activities, and inspections of nursery stock for proper labeling and general plant health are also performed on a regular basis.
FRUIT AND VEGETABLE QUALITY CONTROL
Riverside County agriculturalists produce and ship a diverse list of some of the finest fruits and vegetables in the country. Packing houses in Riverside County pack and distribute a variety of produce locally, and throughout the United States, as well as to many foreign countries. These commodities include top quality varieties of avocados, citrus, dates, grapes, bell peppers, broccoli, corn, lettuce, melons, potatoes, strawberries, and tomatoes. The fruit and vegetable quality control program is responsible for assuring that fruits and vegetables sold commercially are in compliance with California ’s quality standards, in addition to verifying compliance with standard container and marking requirements.
CERTIFIED FARMERS MARKET / CERTIFIED PRODUCER
Certified farmers market locations are approved by the Agricultural Commissioner annually, and provide a centralized location where growers (certified producers), can sell their locally produced agricultural products or products from another certified producer, directly to the consumer. Staff from the Agricultural Commissioner’s Office conduct inspections at each growing ground location to assure that products sold at certified farmers markets are actually produced by individual certified producers. Our office also investigates complaints regarding product identity and enforces agricultural direct marketing laws and regulations.
The National Organic Program was enacted in 2002 to implement the Organic Foods Production Act. This act requires that organic industry entities must become “certified organic” if their annual gross sales exceed $5,000. The California Organic Act of 2003 incorporates the National Organic Standards and requires that all organic producers, handlers and processors become registered. The Agricultural Commissioner’s Office inspects and registers all producers and handlers of organic commodities within Riverside County . Licensed inspectors also conduct investigations of all organic non-compliance related complaints.
EGG QUALITY INSPECTION
Commercial poultry eggs are inspected for required quality and grade standards throughout the county at various retail locations, and at all packer locations. Licensed inspectors enforce state and federal laws and regulations by using a special “candling” device and egg scale, which enables them to determine the condition of the eggshell, the quality of its contents and if the egg is the correct size and weight. These inspections are completed by skilled inspectors that maintain a specialized license issued by the federal government, in addition to the required state license. For many years, Riverside County has proudly held the distinction of being ranked the number one (1) egg producing county in California.
The apiary inspection program emphasizes the registration and site identification of honeybee colonies within Riverside County. Bee colony registration is designed to be beneficial to beekeepers as well as to people who live and work in the vicinity of active colonies. Accurate registration records allow us to know where individual hives are located and help us to resolve certain complaints and issues related to beekeeping in our county. It also allows beekeepers to request notification for pesticide applications that might occur in the vicinity of their apiaries.
CROP AND LIVESTOCK STATISTICS
The annual Agricultural Production Report is required to be compiled by the County Agricultural Commissioner, as specified in the California Food and Agricultural Code. This comprehensive report provides important statistical information used by banks, planning agencies, researchers, schools and others to the benefit of the local economy. Also, various agricultural disasters occurring within the county are identified and surveyed and the information collected is used by other agencies which offer disaster relief programs. By accurately identifying our diverse and robust production activities, agricultural statistics help to promote and protect the vital continuity and prosperity of agriculture within Riverside County and California.