A final decision on the pending Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program known as Ag Order 4.0 is expected by Friday, April 16. Producers have anxiously been monitoring the development of the program from the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board. Stakeholders have repeatedly provided feedback on the proposal, detailing the challenges it would create within agriculture. As the adoption deadline quickly approaches, industry members still have concerns about multiple provisions of the measure.
“Our overall concern is that it’s a situation that first of all makes limits for application of fertilizers very difficult to deal with and we’re not even sure that that’s completely legal or under the jurisdiction of the Water Board. They can regulate what comes off the farm but not necessarily the inputs going into the farm,” said Norm Groot, Monterey County Farm Bureau Executive Director. “So, we’re still very concerned about that particular part of the program as well as the ability of farmers in their operations to really see incentives for participating in a third-party cooperative program.”
There have been some concessions made since the original draft of the Ag Order 4.0 proposal. The latest draft up for consideration does not include some of the standards for farm road maintenance. The initial order required farm roads to be maintained under the same protocols for forest roads. “That just seemed completely egregious for any farm road that really is not in a forested area. So, there were some minor improvements there,” Groot noted.
Despite some of the changes made to the proposed program, there is still significant concern about how it will impact the industry. The fertilizer limitations have been particularly worrisome for farmers, largely due to the nature of production in the area. Groot has also previously noted the complexity of compliance with Ag Order 4.0 as being a challenge in and of itself.
“Overall, I think this is really just a program that’s going to be very difficult and complex for any farm operation to find a way to comply with and actually implement on the farm,” said Groot. “Second, I think the targets that the Water Board seems to be reaching for are largely unsupported by science at this point.”