Many of California’s leaders tout the state’s strict regulations as proof of forward-thinking on environmental issues. But as examples show, problems with environmental regulations often undermine environmental objectives. The regulatory burden caused by questionable policies is also significant for farmers - the cost of California’s ever accumulating regimen of environmental and other rules is taking its toll.

Mechel Paggi, director of the Center for Agricultural Business at California State University, Fresno, another leading agricultural school, has also studied the impact of California’s regulatory system on agricultural businesses, and said regulations are helping to drive away the state’s next generation of farmers.

“The demographic profile is aging in the agricultural community,” Paggi said. “Less kids are picking it up.”

Darway in San Luis Obispo said his son had early on left to pursue a different career; the regulatory burden that came with farming hadn’t appealed to him, Darway said.

Marsh with Western United Dairymen said many dairies are moving out of state.

“If I was a dairy farmer with a child, looking to get into this to continue the legacy, I’d tell him to look to greener pastures,” he said.

The loss of farmland in of itself is a concern to some environmentalists as well. Farms often serve as “buffers” for adjacent open-space areas, protecting wildland from being disturbed, and helping to keep rural areas undeveloped. But reports indicate farmland loss in California continues to be a problem; according to the National Resources Inventory by the United States Department of Agriculture, California is among those states that have suffered the greatest loss of farmland in recent years.

“Small farmers don’t have a lot of resources to deal with compliance for all these laws and regulations,” Boren said.