What is in this article?:
- Some Central Valley growers on the forefront of cooperation with state regulators over water quality issues.
- Nitrates remain one of California’s most widespread water contaminants.
- California growers must meet new waste discharge requirements and file nitrogen management plans with the state.
Water regulations on irrigated lands are major issue facing California growers. Those speaking to the issue at a recent Western Plant Health Association Regulatory Conference included, from left, Joe Karkoski of the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board, and grower representatives Parry Klassen and Kay Mercer.
Studies cost money
Member dues for Klassen’s coalition are collected to administer a group permit on behalf of members in order to comply with the California Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program.
While membership in the coalition is voluntary, the state will regulate growers regardless of whether they belong to a coalition, Klassen said. The advantage of the coalition approach, says Klassen, is the ability to pool funds and help members achieve regulatory compliance by funding cooperatively what no individual farmer can fund on his own.
“We’re spending over $250,000 on what we call a major data dump to create a large report that determines our vulnerable areas,” Klassen said.
“The water board is a very technically oriented organization,” he continued. “You don’t come in and bluff them with information. We make sure when we hire people to do these studies we use high value and high expertise people.”
While the coalition approach spreads out the cost and allows for better scientific studies, it is not without significant cost to the grower. Membership in Klassen’s coalition costs $4 an acre, double what it did just a year ago.
“We lost a number of our members when we did that,” he said. “But we have huge mandates and over a million acres of land to cover. There is a lot of water for us to monitor.”
The work ahead of Klassen and other growers is extremely labor-intensive. All growers, regardless of membership in the coalition, will be required to complete a farm evaluation, complete a nitrogen management plan and develop a sediment and erosion control plan. Growers outside of the coalition will have to do all this on their own.
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