By Christine Souza
Imagine it is a beautiful spring
morning on the farm and you are riding around in your pickup truck
making your early rounds. You turn the corner on a remote road
on your property and discover old mattresses, stacks of used tires,
couches without cushions, broken trailers, stolen cars, rotting
batteries and the remnants of a methamphetamine lab dumped on
Most growers do not have to imagine
it. Illegal dumping on farms is a constant reality for them and
they end up being responsible for cleaning up the mess.
Kings County cattle and field
crop grower John Correia says that his property has become a hot
spot for illegal dumping. Looking at old clothes, broken patio
furniture, torn apart sofas and used refrigerators sprinkled across
one area of the property, Correia said, “This is nothing.
Two years ago we had about six dump loads a week of this trash.
If you walk the canal you will have enough stuff to furnish a
One particular problem for him:
the countless broken bottles that are thrown onto his fields.
“After they start throwing
bottles, the broken glass ends up scattered all over the field
and slices the tires on the farm equipment. That can cost us $1,000
per tire in some cases,” Correia said.
In neighboring Tulare County,
grower Chris Lange, a director of the Tulare County Farm Bureau,
maintains a beautiful farm near Woodlake, surrounded by hills
and lush citrus groves dotted with fruit. Across from one of these
picturesque spots of perfectly aligned rows of trees is an unwieldy
pile of trash that seems never to go away.
The grim ingredients include
everything from old toys and mattresses to used tires and all
forms of garbage.
“Each year I fill a truck
up with this inherited garbage and take it to the dump. Then I,
of course, pay the dump fee,” Lange said. “We are
estimating that in a year, we haul 30 tons worth of garbage at
our expense and some years it is even worse. It is not just the
inconvenience of the expense, but how cleaning the mess delays
your farming operation. All of a sudden, you have to clear out
the trash before you can continue your tractor work or regular
The mess does not stop there.
Lange said thieves commonly dump stolen vehicles, many of which
are burned on his property. “The fire burns back the citrus
trees and then I have to pay to replace the trees,” Lange
Illegal dumping of unwanted trash
is also a common occurrence in this area, says Yolo County Supervisor
Duane Chamberlain, a farmer and member of the Yolo County Farm
“I had 12 computer modules
dumped onto my ranch last year and I called the Yolo County Sheriff’s
Department. The deputy looked up the numbers on the modules and
none of them were reported stolen, but there was nothing he could
do because he didn’t know who dumped them. So it was up
to me to get rid of them,” Chamberlain said. “The
problem is, it is just so expensive to take this stuff to the
The cost for growers who are
continually bombarded with trash on their properties can add up,
especially if their property is a known target for dumping. In
Yolo County, the cost to take common items to the landfill include:
refrigerators, $15 each; dishwashers, $7 each; auto tires, $2
each; and truck tires, $3 each.
“Illegal dumping is a huge
problem in our valley and it is huge in the sense that farmers
are having to deal with this mess. Some people just think that
farms and ranches are the public dump,” said William Yoshimoto,
supervising attorney and director of ACTION (Agricultural Crime
Technology Information and Operations Network). “Farmers
have to do the cleanup or pay to have someone pick it up. If they
don’t do it, it is hazardous, and it takes productive land
away from them. It costs the farmer, no matter how you look at
To aid local law enforcement
in tracking down illegal dumping suspects, Detective Jeff Tyner,
Kings County Sheriff’s Department Rural Crime Unit investigator,
suggests that growers in the county and elsewhere in the state
stay alert and provide such evidence as license plate numbers
of suspicious vehicles or any other pertinent information.
“Many illegal dumping cases
go unreported, so when a person is a victim of illegal dumping,
they should first call the county sheriff’s department so
we can investigate. We are looking for any clues to identify persons
who dump trash, such as tire tread impressions or shoe prints,”
Traynor said. “We have a no-tolerance policy when it comes
to illegal dumping.”
If a person illegally disposes
of items along the side of the road, Traynor said, it is considered
an infraction, but when dumping happens near a waterway, the offense
jumps up to a misdemeanor. The infraction will earn the suspect
up to a $1,000 fine and the misdemeanor is punishable by fine
or up to one year in county jail.
Another option to help growers
clean up illegal waste is from a grant through the California
Integrated Waste Management Board known as the Farm and Ranch
Solid Waste Cleanup and Abatement Grant Program. The program provides
up to $1 million annually in grants for the cleanup of illegal
solid waste sites on farm or ranch property.
“The Integrated Waste Management
Board is really encouraging farmers to work with their local cities,
counties, or resource conservation districts to apply for funding.
Illegal dumping is a constant nuisance for farmers, but at least
now there are some funding opportunities to help offset the expenses
of cleaning up farm property,” said Elisa Noble, California
Farm Bureau rural crime prevention coordinator.
Sites may be eligible for funding
if the parcels are zoned for agricultural use, where unauthorized
solid waste disposal has occurred, and where the sites are in
need of cleanup in order to abate a nuisance or public health
and safety threat and/or a threat to the environment.
“Illegal dumping is a frustrating
issue for farmers and ranchers, especially because it is so disrespectful.
It is an unfortunate reality that farmers have faced for many
years. Fortunately, we are seeing some renewed efforts to stop
illegal dumping and hold suspects accountable,” Noble said.
For more information about the
illegal waste grant, contact grant manager Carla Repucci at 916-341-6316
or firstname.lastname@example.org. Christine Souza is a reporter for Ag
Alert. She may be contacted at email@example.com.