3 p.m., May 24
Owners of Be Wise Farm and their customers file legal complaint against the County over Eye Gnat Ordinances
The groups say ordinances violate CEQA and other state and local laws.
Consumers of organic produce and the farms they buy from are ticked off at San Diego County's Department of Environmental Health for the implementation of Eye Gnat Ordinances which could force farmers to spray pesticides on their crop.
Now looking to block the law, the Friends of San Diego Organic Produce and the Be Wise Ranch filed a legal complaint against the County over the eye gnat ordinances.
"Members of [Friends of San Diego Organic Produce] have been injured as a result of the San Diego County Board of Supervisor's actions," states the complaint.
"The County's actions adversely affect the interests of [Friends of San Diego Organic Produce] members because the ordinances could force the closure of organic farms in San Diego County by requiring pesticides to be sprayed on organic farms to control eye gnat infestations. Members of [Friends of San Diego Organic Produce] purchase and consume organic produce grown in San Diego County, and have an interest in protecting and promoting organic produce in San Diego County. If members...cannot purchase organic produce locally, they will be forced to either drive farther to purchase local organic produce, or purchase organic produce that has been imported."
In recent years the ranch has been at the center of the eye gnat debate. In 2010 the County hired farm consultant Jim Bethke of the University of California Cooperative Extension to look into the problem after the County received complaints from nearby residents. He found, according to a letter from former Supervisor Pam Slater-Price to Jan Goldsmith, "ample evidence pointing to Be Wise Ranch as the source of a public nuisance."
Shortly after the report, Be Wise Ranch farmer Bill Brammer accused Slater-Price and her colleague Dianne Jacob of kowtowing to local residents and targeting his farm. The complaint claims that the farm worked with the County in good faith. The farm "implemented the Voluntary Eye Gnat Prevention Plan on Be Wise Ranch, placed traps, cloth barriers, and offered free traps to residents. In October, 2012 eye gnats on Be Wise Ranch had been reduced by 98% since 2010, and resident complaints were reduced by 85%."
But despite the progress, County Supervisors moved ahead.
Now, more than a month after they signed the eye gnat ordinances into law, Brammer and the Friends of San Diego Organic Produce have struck back. According to the complaint, the groups plan to file a petition against the County for violating the California Environmental Quality Act.
Their complaint claims the ordinances not only violate environmental laws, they also go against the State's Health and Safety Code.
"The interests of Petitioners have been and will continue to be adversely affected by the County's unlawful actions in violation of San Diego County land use regulations, CEQA, the Health and Safety Code, and the Code of Civil Procedure ("CCP"). The relief sought in this Petition would redress Petitioners and their injuries."