I talked with Bill Sandige (Calif. Dept. of Food and Agriculture) yesterday and he indicated that this year's draconian RIFA (red imported fire ant) rules (no second chances) would be modified.

The tentative new rules:

If only 1 or 2 (or 3?) ants are found at the NM-AZ border, the load could proceed to the Needles station (at the AZ-CA border) where it could be disassembled - at a designated lot at Bullhead City, AZ, near Needles - steam cleaned, reassembled, then allowed to pass into California (providing it passed inspection at the Needles station).

This is essentially a return to the rules that existed prior to mid-January 2001 (at which time a "dirty load" that passed AZ inspection was found to be badly infested upon arrival at a CA almond orchard).

Mr. Sandige is under considerable pressure to keep additional RIFA out of California (a 40 million dollar RIFA budget adds to this pressure). Some within the Dept. don't want any changes to last year's ''death sentence'' rules and point out that no other commodity is given such a break as that outlined above. Mr. Sandige, however, is aware that this year's last-minute rules change inflicted considerable pain on a number of beekeepers and almond growers.

Mr. Sandige is familiar with TX rigid pre-departure rules (helped in good part by the Feb. 28 San Antonio, TX meeting, organized by Texas A&M and Texas beekeepers) and that such rules should preclude a repeat of last year's ''dirty load''; this load (from LA) had numerous dirt mounds and at least 1 dead-out containing RIFA. Beekeepers from RIFA states other than TX will be given close scrutiny (perhaps such beekeepers should encourage their states to adopt Texas-like rules).

Mr. Sandige has spent considerable time and effort in recent weeks in securing the "safe haven'' cleaning area in Bullhead City, AZ. He has arranged for the site to be treated for RIFA after any bee load is disassembled and steam cleaned.

Some details still need to be worked out:
  1. A forklift (and operator) to unload trucks for steam-cleaning at the Bullhead City site (if truck drivers are unable to do so).
  2. Steam cleaning equipment (and operator).

Mr. Sandige indicated that a local beekeeper (in the Needles area) may be interested in doing the above (for a fee). Beekeepers would be required to provide a steam cleaner (perhaps rent one locally).

Mr. Sandige said that in early September he would be meeting with John Caravetta (AZ Ag Dept.) to finalize RIFA rules for 2002. Some written rules should be available from the CDFA in late September and should be along the lines of those outlined above.

Note: all loads will be subject to a final RIFA inspection at the final destination (CA almond orchard) as they have been in the past.

Mr. Sandige (916)654-0312 or Mr. Caravetta (602)542-0996 can be contacted if further information is needed.

Jo Traynor, Mgr.

P.O. Box 2144
Bakersfield, CA 93303

Toll-free number: (877) 356-5846
Office Located at:
1734 D Street, Suite #2
Bakersfield, California
24 Hr. Phone (661) 327-2631