Thanks for latest commentary

Harry:
Thanks for your latest commentary in Western Farm Press (July 3, 2004) concerning the travesty of ag air pollution control in the San Joaquin Valley. I farm in the Sacramento valley (alfalfa and small grains) and have been watching with much concern the plight of the farmers in the San Joaquin Valley with air pollution control. A more immediate concern to me (although it applies to the entire Central Valley) is the loss of exemption from waste discharge requirements by the Central Valley Water Resources Control Board.

With the loss of this exemption, California farmers are being treated the same as hazardous waste landfills, all due to a lawsuit brought by Delta Watchers, the National Resources Defense Council, and others.

In addition to being a farmer I am also a California Registered Geologist specializing in water quality at Cal EPA for nearly 20 years. I know the financial burden that waste discharge requirements cause. I have seen facilities spend millions just trying to prove their innocence. I also know that the data that Delta Watchers submitted was scientifically flawed and would have been dismissed if reviewed by my agency.

Delta Watchers consists of people filling water bottles from fishing boats. No sampling and analysis plan, no quality assurance/quality control plan, no equipment blanks, etc., all required by U.S. EPA technical guidance and accepted scientific practice. Without these careful procedures we do not know where contaminants entered the sample: from cross contamination, poor sample handling, or compounds found on the boat.

California agriculture is under attack. We can either spend money trying to comply or prove our innocence or we can preemptively act to support our cause to the people, legislature, and Congress by the use of PAK supported lobbying.

I recently heard Earl Williams, president of the California Cotton Growers and Ginners Association speak at the 2004 California Rice Commission grower meeting. Mr. Williams advocated that all of California agriculture must stand united against attack by each sector and commodity sporting the interests of other sectors and commodities. This way cotton growers can support the interests of rice farmers, and Sacramento Valley farmers back the San Joaquin Valley growers, because we know what happens to one region or commodity today will soon be extended to others.

I personally want to do whatever I can to support farmers in the San Joaquin Valley's fight against environmental tyranny including offering my services as a water quality geologist.

Only if California farmers unite will we be able to prosper into the 21st century.
Michael O. Finch
Yolo County, Calif., farmer

He sees another money shakedown

Harry:
You deserve a huge attaboy for the commentary in the July 3 issue.

I attended a session on how the new rules will affect us. It became so transparent during this meeting that all this is, is another money shakedown without calling the fees taxes.

I've seen this with an industry that has been affected before this — cotton gins.

Gins have been regulated by the pollution credits they have, yet the credits are a tradable commodity and if you wish to increase your output a gin could go out and buy more credits, making the underlying issue of pollution secondary.

The rules, as explained at the meeting, seem almost schizophrenic. If you have 100 contiguous acres that makes you subject to compliance of a certain kind but if you farm smaller, scattered, blocks you become exempt, yet you're still creating dust.

I've talked to the people that do our crop spraying and they've said for years that instead of fighting these things when they come down the pike, join them and advocate that the rules affect a broad base of society — in effect let everyone's ox be gored. This is much like you suggested in advocating higher DMV fees for certain types of driving behavior or hour meters on lawn mowers ,etc., etc., until everyone's ox is gored.

We live in the small town of San Joaquin, about 30 miles southwest of Fresno and have a straight shot of 22 miles down Manning Avenue to I-5 at the base of the coast range mountains and on most days one can see, with clarity, the mountains. On these same days I look to the east to the Sierra Nevada, granted we are a bit farther, but all that hangs in the air is a reddish-brown haze over Fresno. I've been on the softball complex at Buchanan High School in Clovis during the summer, with the Sierras literally a stone's throw away and it's hard to make out the outline of the Sierras. My point being it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see where the pollution is coming from.

One last thing is that we as farmers, growing green living plants or trees are not given credit for these plants that my elementary school science class taught me were an asset to the eco system in regenerating the air we breathe. Even the Hollywood “lefty” Eddie Albert does public service ads for Arbor Day Foundation advocating planting trees to help the environment. Hell, why don't we get pollution cleaning credits to offset the air district fees they want to stick us with?

Somehow I don't think the powers that be would see it that way.
Gerald Kinnunen
San Joaquin, Calif.

‘The regulations make me sick’

Dear Mr. Cline:
Another great commentary! I farm 40 acres of grapes in Fresno County, so I am not impacted as much by these stupid regulations as my neighbors are, but the regulations still make me sick.

Finally, someone other than me has noticed that the senator from Shafter is giving the shaft to the people that put him in office — why not alienate a few voters when he can make a big impression with a hot-button issue and get the big-money, big-city voters. His preference is to, in his words: “Monitor and Regulate.” That really means “legislate and tax.”

As for the regs against the dairy industry, the senator ignores the fact that the catalytic converters, while getting rid of carbon monoxide, simply convert most of the pollution to nitrous oxide compounds that are indistinguishable from “animal emissions.”

There are some educated farmers. What is really needed is to get these views and facts, like those in your column, to mainstream media and not have dialog just between farmers.

As far as I'm concerned, that senator is like Hitler, and farm groups rolling over and trying to appease him is only going to lead to more half-truths and legislative restrictions from his office as he seeks higher office in California.

I'm looking forward to your next commentary.
Regards,
Gary Giusti

Air pollution rules tougher on farmer

Harry:
Thanks for your commentary on valley air pollution. You hit the nail on the head.

We are involved in agriculture from the growing side as well as the manufacturing side, and we see it getting tougher on the farmer all the time. Keep up the good work.
Stuart Layman
Flory Industries, Salida, Calif.