Dave Whitmer is a nice guy — unless you’re a destructive bug.
Unlike Monica Cooper, his job is enforcing regulations, not advising growers, although in practice, education turns out to be a large part of the job.
But like Cooper, Whitmer answers to many masters. A county official appointed by the supervisors, he has to enforce local, state and federal agricultural rules.
In effect, he also reports to the U.S. Department of Agriculture as well as the California Secretary of Agriculture, Karen Ross, the former head of the California Association of Winegrape Growers.
He also has responsibility for pesticide regulations from the California Environmental Protection Agency.
Last year, Whitmer had the unenviable task of enforcing a quarantine on the dreaded moths but says growers and wineries were very cooperative.
His office does have power to get warrants to inspect uncooperative growers or even declare public nuisances and abate them, but, that power is largely theoretical.
He’s had to persuade some growers to deal with abandoned vineyards that could harbor pests, but fortunately, didn’t have to take any to court.
Last summer, the county also called on backyard growers to either destroy or spray grapes, but the state hasn’t called for general spraying. “If that happened, I’d be in the middle,” he said, for the community would surely fight it.
In a more positive vein, like Cooper, Whitmer is also interested in local food production and has been working with the supervisors and other departments to reduce paperwork and regulations as well as encourage local growers. That’s clearly a favorite part of his job, but he knows that another invasive bug may spring up any time.
He’s had a lot of experience with previous pests and stands ready to react.