California CCAs meet standards set by the International CCA program, administered by the American Society of Agronomy and a California CCA board. There are approximately 12,000 CCAs in the U.S. and Canada.

There are 560 CCAs in California now.

Like PCAs, CCAs must take extensive exams, administered twice a year. They include both an international test on nutrient management, soil and water management, crop management and pest management and a California exam on nutrients, soils, water and crop management. They must also meet educational and experience requirements. A licensed California PCA is exempted from the pest management section of the CCA exam. CCA licenses are renewed every 2 years with a 40-hour continuing education requirement over that period.

The difference between the PCA and the CCA is that pesticides are legally labeled for how and when they are to be used and that is what PCAs must follow by law. There are no use labels on fertilizers.

Although the CCA program is not governmental, it is recognized by at least two government agencies. CCAs are certified to assist growers in preparing plans for growers applying for Natural Resource Conservation Service EQIP funds. CCAs are also are certified by the Central Valley Regional Water Quality

Control Board to prepare and certify nutrient management plans required by law for dairy producers under their jurisdiction. The California CCA board offers training for a specialty certification in manure management.

California CCA directors also recently voted to accept the recommendation from California Department of Food and Agriculture Fertilizer Research and Education Program

(FREP) to train and certify CCAs in CDFAs Nutrient Management Plans.

This effort is tied to what is likely to be a statewide mandate to develop NMPs for all farms. It is already happening in some areas. There are nine regional water quality boards in the state which have been monitoring water quality for contaminants. Two have reached the stage where they will soon require nutrient management plans for some farmers in their district. These are the Central Valley Water Quality Board and the Central Coast Water Quality Control Board. Some farmers within those two areas will soon be required to develop NMPs, and CCAs are expected to be the accredited professionals who can aid farmers in developing those plans. These are expected to be required by 2014.

The latest round in the growing water quality and nutrient confrontation between growers and regulators is the so-called Harter report from the University of California, Davis. This study identified nitrates as one of California’s widespread groundwater contaminants.

The CDFA/CCA program, as well as the impending NMPs mandated by the water quality control boards are not officially linked to the Harter UC nitrate report, however, the issue is the same: water quality.

Sebastian Braun is the new chairman of the California CCA and says the Harter report is a rehash of a long-known issue.