Resnick and the Light Brown Apple Moth (LBAM)

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Text by Sarah Phelan

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When I read Lance Williams' article about a corporate farmer who used his political connections to try and influence the Delta water wars debate, the corporate farmer's name sounded familiar. So, I checked-- and sure enough, Stewart Resnick's name popped up, only this time in an article that I wrote about the contentious, controversial and ongoing fight about how best to control the Light Brown Apple Moth--and whether the aerial spraying of urban areas with a moth pheromone was ever really necessary.

As the Guardian article about the LBAM debate noted, "Critics of the state's pheromone spraying program observe that Suterra LLC, which manufactured the spray used over Santa Cruz and Monterey counties, refused to release the full ingredients until it was sued — and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger demanded immediate full disclosure."

The article also observed that, "These same critics also note that Schwarzenegger, who continues to support CDFA's LBAM-eradication program, received $144,600 in campaign contributions from Los Angeles–based Roll International owners Stewart and Lynda Resnick (my bold), who control Suterra, Fiji Water, Paramount Agribusiness, and the Franklin Mint."

"Records show the Resnicks donate broadly, mostly to Democrats — including the gubernatorial campaigns of Steve Westly and Phil Angelides, and US Sens. Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and Barack Obama — with a lesser-size donation to Republican presidential front-runner John McCain, proving they play both sides of the fence," the Guardian's article concludes.

And as William's recent article notes, "Underpinning [the Resnicks'] fortune is agribusiness – 70,000 acres of pistachios and almonds, 48,000 acres of citrus and pomegranates – most of it in Kern County at the south end of the San Joaquin Valley, and all requiring irrigation to survive."

In other words, the Resnicks' agribusiness empire could be negatively impacted if other countries refused to import their produce, because of LBAM-related fears, even if those fears were unfounded.. Conversely, the Resnicks' business interests stood to gain if the state mandated the widespread aerial spraying of a synthetic pheromone by a company (Suterra) that the Resnicks controlled.

I'm not saying that's why the state ended up pushing its controversial aerial spraying plan, until public pressure stopped that plan in its tracks, but it sure is an interesting question