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Who Poisoned My Grapes? (Part 4)

I waited 16 months for Sonoma County to issue their report on the spraying of my grapevines. I did not get a call as promised, but at a social occasion I happened to learn that the report had been finalized and released. I could make an appointment and come by the Commissioner’s office and pick it up. I phoned and got a date and time.

Silly me, I thought it would be just a short stop. When I arrived I was asked to step into the interrogation room and have a seat, White Shirt would be with me shortly. Interrogation room? WTF? Was I being interrogated? I was the harmed party.

Soon White Shirt came in and sat right across from me. Picture a scene from the TV show CSI. And I was on the wrong side.  White Shirt came in with a hand full of papers. I needed to sign a formal request for the release of the report. Just a few papers. When I signed, White Shirt would take them into the bowels of the office and most likely have them approved. I signed and waited, and waited…

Finally, White Shirt came back with the report in hand. He wanted to review each page with me. Page by page. Oh and by the way a fee of $0.35 per page would be charged. Some 24 pages would cost me $8.40. The last 10 pages were the list of attachments containing all of the pictures. Some 220 pictures of my damaged vines. These would be put on a zip drive. The good news is that even though a charge was made for the page the office was going to throw in the zip drive for free! Yes, you read it here first. Free! Something from the government for free. (Don’t tell the board of Equalization, they will want a transfer tax on the value of it.)

My inside information was that the original report contained 80 pages. Then it was cut to 40 pages. The final being 24. One reason for taking so long was that the report had to be approved by the state Departments of Agriculture, Enviroment, and Public Resources, and now the Sonoma County Counsel, a lawyer — now there is the holdup.

After waiting for the report to be copied, here was it was right in front of me. Pesticide Episode Investigation Report. Department of Pesticide Regulation Enforcement Branch. Form pr-enf-127 Sonoma County report 492009.

Now most people would not be able to decipher the report number. Sonoma County is County 49. 2009 refers to the number of Investigation Reports that they have done in 2015. The investigation was opened up on June 11th, 2015. The report was submitted on April 25, 2016 and approved on August 12, 2016. However, it was not released until October due to no more than bureaucracy.

So White Shirt and I went over the report page by page. It took hours. Remarkably, it was well prepared. You have to read through the report very carefully to put the Food & Ag Deparment violations together with the summary. It then lists the label violations. Only once does the report mention that the defendant was in violation. However at the bottom of page 14 it states: “A notice of Proposed Action will be issued to the defendant.”

The report goes on to list a full page of Contacts. Now, this looks like a “Who’s Who in California Agriculture.” The phone numbers of anyone who may be a celebrity are redacted. More silliness, my partner’s phone number is one of these redacted.

The next ten pages are the chronological investigations and statements, including the reports for the herbicide levels in the vine samples taken on June 22, 2015. Just as a comparison I had my reports in seven days from a private laboratory. It took the county three months to get the same results.

The report closes with “A Notice of Proposed Action will be issued to” Old Crutch Face. Rumor has it the Commissioner is proposing a $4000 fine. WTF? I spent more than that for Laboratory fees. And two of my neighbors had to perform some tests on their vineyards for some cost. In addition Old Crutch Face has 180 days to appeal the fine. How about revoking his permits to do business?

Just as I was going to submit this article for printing I have learned that Crutch Face is appealing. Yes, appealing the results of the report and the proposed fine. He is claiming the herbicide sprouted legs and crawled under the railroad tracks and moved south into my vineyard where the roots of my vines fed on the Herbicide. Thereby causing the damage. The appeal hearing is set for the end of January. I have the date on my calendar.

(To be continued, again.)

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