Fight Heats Up Between California Ag Industry and Environmentalists

A long simmering tension between California agricultural groups and environmental groups is threatening to boil over with the planned adoption of controversial water pollution regulations.

The rules, which have been debated for four years, represent “the most extensive public process in the [state water board’s] history,” according to members of the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board. The rules would affect nearly all of the eight counties that make up the Central Coast region. This area generates about $9 billion worth of farm products annual, including Monterrey County, which produces about half of that annual figure alone. As the major engine of the region’s economy, the agricultural industry is sensitive to potential threats to their bottom line.

The rule, which will be considered for adoption on March 14, would create a three-tiered system that would mandate regulatory action based on the threat posed to groundwater and the local environment. According to the Water Quality Board, only about 3 percent of farms would be subject to Tier 3, the strictest regulatory tier.

The proposed rules would require farm runoff and discharge reporting, would increase transparency requirements, and require verification of on-farm improvements.

Farmers say these requirements are too costly and not necessary. According to some farm advocacy groups, the requirements placed on some of the tiers are unrealistic and “lacking in science.” Some environmental groups are unhappy that the proposal does not go far enough in reducing water pollution in the region.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer