Neither company has responded to requests for comment.
Last month the county commissioner also imposed nearly $50,000 in fines against five other companies in connection with a separate chemical drift incident that sickened 92 garlic harvesters in Bakersfield last August.
At least two of those firms, Harvest King and Pacific Farm Management, both farm labor contractors, are challenging those fines. The fines were levied as penalties for not ensuring workers who were exposed to chemicals got medical care.
"No one that harvested garlic with us ever reported an injury or got sick or had a symptom," said Ahmed Mike Alamari, who runs Pacific Farm Management, one of the largest agricultural labor contractors in California. Pacific Farms employed about two dozen agricultural employees on scene on the day of the incident.
Another farm labor contractor penalized in the August drift, Agstar, has paid its fine, said Fankhauser in an email.
The largest penalty in that case was against Tasteful Selections, an Arvin-based firm that grows and processes potatoes. That company is reviewing the case to determine whether it wants to appeal the fine.
Another firm, Agra Fly, which sprays chemicals on farm land, has yet to pay its fine in connection with the incident.
The penalties come as the agricultural industry fights efforts at the state level to increase fine amounts for serious violations of California's pesticide laws.
Currently, the maximum fine for violating the state's pesticide regulations is $5,000. Earlier this month the State Assembly Committee on Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials voted 5-0 to increase that limit to $25,000 under a bill authored by Assemblyman Bill Quirk, D-Hayward.
"Show us the money. Where are the violations that would say we need to go from $5,000 to $25,000 per violation?" asked Cynthia Cory, director of environmental affairs for the California Farm Bureau Federation, during the committee's hearing on the proposal.
The California Department of Pesticide Regulation, which sponsored the bill, emphasizes that the higher fines would be for only the most egregious cases, like when workers become sick.
Other agricultural industry groups, including the Western Growers Association and the Western Plant Health Association, which represents fertilizer and crop protection manufacturers, also oppose the bill.
Farmworker advocates have pushed for the legislation, pointing to concerns from the two Kern County drifts, as well as incidents in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties last year that sickened dozens of other agricultural employees.
The state Assembly Appropriations Committee approved the legislation last Thursday. The bill now heads to the full Assembly.