The State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) recently voted to further increase fees related to water quality and water rights. President and CEO of the Western Agricultural Processors Association (WAPA), Roger Isom explained that fees are going up across the board. Producers are going to be seeing increased costs in several areas moving forward.
“Directly, they’re going to see an increase on the irrigated lands fee that every grower pays. That’s going to be a little over a 15 percent increase,” Isom noted. “That’s done, it’s adopted and will be on their next bill. If they belong to or send their product to a processor, like a tomato processor or a pistachio plant, something that uses water, their fees are also going up I believe an additional nine percent.”
During the most recent meeting, SWRCB voted to increase the Waste Discharge Requirement (WDR) fee by nearly 17 percent. WDR fees have risen 112 percent between 2011 and 2020. A fee increase of 15.6 percent was also approved for Confined Animal Feeding (CAF) operations. Isom also pointed out further potential to increase fees related to regulatory requirements for public water systems.
Several agricultural groups and associations weighed in on the economic impact fee increases would have on the industry. Isom pointed out that the increased fees far outweigh other environmental fees that the industry also has to pay. During testimony, WAPA joined the Agricultural Council of California in calling for an outside evaluation of the SWRCB’s finances.
“We’ve pointed out how out of line they are compared to other regulatory agencies, how they do little to address water quality, and yet they’re the highest fees of any regulatory agency that we pay,” Isom explained. “They don’t look at it from zero-based budgeting. They simply say, ‘this is what the cost is’ with little justification and the Board has just simply rubberstamped it.”