Region 3 has adopted the most draconian set of rules for fertilizers and pesticide use in the state. Irrigation is also part of these management rules.

The regs are on appeal, however. As they now stand the Region 3 water quality regulations would require growers individually to report all that’s applied to a crop, including water, to the regional board. Coastal growers are also facing a mandatory nitrogen balance of one-to-one or 100 percent utilization. Dunham says this will be “virtually impossible” to achieve.

One of the contentious issues in Region 5 groundwater management is monitoring wells: how many and where. Dunham predicted it will likely be similar to the dairy nitrate monitoring program. A program is in place for the 1,400 dairies in the Central Valley. There are 200 monitoring wells. Dairies pay $500 initially and then are charged $80 per month to manage the well monitoring.

These water quality rules are evolving, especially for groundwater and nitrates. However, Dunham said eventually fertilizer use reporting will become another regulatory requirement for California. It may come through the California Department of Food and Agriculture or through the regional boards, but it’s definitely coming, she says.

Leahy may be an apprehensive enigma to some, but he made it clear he had high confidence in his department’s 400 employees and high praise for California agriculture. Leahy has a farming background. A native Californian, his family farmed in the Ontario area.

In 1980, he became one of California’s pioneering organic and biodiversity farmers when he took over operations of Cherokee Ranch Inc., a 900-acre rice farm in Butte County that converted to organic farming practices. He leased out the farm in 1992, but owned the property until 2003.

From 1992 to 1994, he operated the 800-acre organic corn, soybean, alfalfa and cattle Ackerlund farm in Fremont, Neb.

He served as executive director for the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts from 2004 to 2006, where he was closely involved with the Williamson Act and was the executive director for the California Certified Organic Farmers from 2000 to 2004.

However, he did not single out either organic or conventional agriculture in his WPHA presentation.

Rather, he detailed the role of DPR in spending millions on residue testing of the food supply produced by California agriculture, finding “extremely low, if any residue. This is good for consumer confidence in a very safe food supply.”

He applauded agriculture for being one of the “quickest adopters of technology.” And that includes chemistry. He praised agrichemical manufacturers for spending millions of dollars to develop new chemical formulations to reduce Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) to meet air quality standards in the Central Valley.