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Farm Bureau is the Logical Organization to Form Local Monitoring Group

Reprinted from the San Diego County Farm Bureau Newsletter
by Eric Larson

In an atmosphere that includes higher prices for less water, labor uncertainty, import pressure, and ridiculous fuel costs, the last thing Farm Bureau wants to do is ask you to write another check. We don’t want to, but we are going to do it anyway.

In response to the environmental movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s, state and federal regulations were adopted to protect water quality. Over the years, the big polluters were identified and forced to clean up their act. Now the effort has reached down to the smaller sources of possible pollution, including the farms of San Diego County.

For the past several years, the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB), the state agency tasked with local clean water enforcement, has been satisfied that farm runoff was being addressed through permits for dairies, nursery inspections, and the assumption that everyone else was applying best management practices. Well, we are now on the verge of a big change. The RWQCB now wants proof that farms are not causing pollution from fertilizers, chemicals, organic materials, or anything else leaving the farm in irrigation or stormwater runoff. There is only one way to provide that evidence: Take water samples below the farms and conduct laboratory tests.

San Diego County farmers are not the first to face this challenge. In Southern, Central and Northern California, numerous farm groups have been in place for years taking water samples and providing test results as required by their regional boards. Their work has already proven that a collective effort is the model to follow. The challenge here is that there are more than 5,000 farm sites in 11 different watersheds. It gets a bit more complicated with many of the farms embedded in urban neighborhoods. You are right if you think this sounds expensive.

As the region’s largest farm organization, it became evident to the San Diego County Farm Bureau’s board of directors that this organization is the only practical group to take on this challenge. If Farm Bureau left every farmer to fend for his or her self, the cost would be exorbitant and the effort taxing. Yes, Farm Bureau will be asking you to write a check for the collective endeavor, but the alternative of having the individual burden of proof through a direct permitting relationship with the RWQCB is not at all attractive.