Braun, regional agronomist for Yara North America based in Northern California, has been a certified CCA for 12 years and a PCA for four.

“It’s a problem that we have known about for a long time. We call it legacy contamination. Nitrates have been accumulating for decades,” he says. “It will take decades to solve the problem.”

The CCA will play a role in this issue by aiding growers in developing improved nitrogen management plans. “I don’t think every grower is optimizing nitrogen management in every field, and we can help there,” he says.

However, Braun added “there is not a whole lot of what I call bad management on the farm, either. It is not good business to be a bad manager today.”

He believes, as this issue comes under more scrutiny, regulators will find that farming today is dramatically different than it was just 15 years ago. The past cannot be used to judge today’s farming.

Two things are important to understand in these nitrate issues that are often overlooked, he says.

One is growers no long flood or furrow irrigate as much as they once did simply because there is less water available. Drip or micro irrigations are common to reduce water use and more precisely deliver nutrients and pesticides. That means less water is being applied that would leach the nitrogen.

“Secondly, nitrogen is no longer a cheap commodity as it used to be. Fertilizer is a fairly expensive input today. That is not going to change,” he says.

Those two things have acted as economic incentive to mitigate nitrogen leaching, believes Braun.

Rather than forcing unnecessary change on the way producers farm, Braun believes agriculture “can definitely engage” the public in informing it on what farmers are doing to mitigate nitrogen leaching.

Braun believes the CCA is the “most qualified” to deal with nitrogen management to the public and on the farm. “I would hope that the growing role of the CCA in agriculture is not addressed as just another way to meet regulations. CCAs have the knowledge to help farmers improve nutrient management that will benefit them and the environment,” he says. This is not just a California issue. The groundwater and surface water quality issue will spread across the nation as the federal government demand cleaner water, according to Braun, and CCAs nationwide will play a bigger role there.

A CCA certification gives comfort to the farmer that the CCA from he is soliciting advice is fully qualified to give soil, water and nutrient recommendations, according to Allan Romander of Modesto, Calif., a CCA and PCA. Romander is retired from a major ag retailer, but remains active in CCA affairs. He is past CCA chairman and now board treasurer and has been very active in promoting the CCA program.

The day is coming in California when all farmers must have NMPs. “We cannot avoid it. It is as sure as death and taxes,” he said.

This he said will result in most PCAs also carrying CCA certificates.