The draft Agricultural Order for Discharges to Irrigated Lands 4.0, simply known as Ag Order 4.0, was submitted in late February by the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board and is now available for public review and comment. The regulation would expand monitoring and reporting requirements and establish a limitation on the amount of nitrogen that farmers can apply to crops during the year.
“If you’re a farmer and you’re rotating multiple crops per year in a field, you will not be able to have multiple crops because the minimum nitrogen that you have to apply to crops,” said Brent Burchett, Executive Director of the San Luis Obispo County Farm Bureau. “This is a pretty crazy standard in that we no longer think that we’ll have yearlong production, which is a hallmark of California agriculture.”
Other concerns relating to the standards provided in the regulation stem from requirements for riparian buffers along waterways. Not only would those buffers come at significant cost to growers, but it will also conflict with other standards already regulating the distance between vegetative areas and production as it relates to food safety. “So, there’s things that we have to do for food safety regulations, here comes Ag Order 4.0 basically asking you to do different things for water quality regulations,” said Burchett.
The comment period for the rule is critical, as information and data submitted during the 45-day window will be the only information that can be drawn upon in the event of litigation against the order. Burchett is encouraging the agriculture industry to be proactive during the comment period, in attending public workshops and submitting comments on the draft order.
“I can tell you, if you irrigate any crops and you’re in the Central Coast region, you have got to be engaged on Ag Order 4.0. It will change the way we farm,” Burchett noted. “Whether you’re talking about water quantity with SGMA, whether it’s pesticide restrictions and regulations, air quality standards. This may be the worst regulation that we’ve faced in many years in California.”
Listen to Burchett’s interview below.