Agricultural industry members remain concerned about the Ag Order 4.0 impact as the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board considers the next step in the process. The draft order has the potential to create significant changes in how agriculture operates in the area. Now with the comment deadline over, growers on the Central Coast are anxiously awaiting what comes next and what that will mean for the overall industry.
“I think each one of these iterations has gotten a lot more complex and a lot more burdensome for the average farmer to manage and particularly in this proposed draft order 4.0 it’s going to be very worrisome as to how they’re going to implement the management practices and the data collection that’s going to be needed for this,” said Norm Groot, Executive Director of the Monterey County Farm Bureau (MCFB).
The Agricultural Association Partners filed several documents in response to the draft Ag Order 4.0 prior to the comment deadline. MCFB also submitted a comment letter detailing the Ag Order 4.0 impact on agricultural operations in the area. The establishment of riparian setback areas around waterways is a particularly troublesome feature of the draft order. Groot cited an example of some parcels having as much as 60 percent of the land qualifying as needing to establish a setback area. “Not that that’s going to happen for every parcel, but for some parcels that’s a significant portion,” Groot noted.
The Ag Order 4.0 impact could also affect the overall level of agriculture in the region. The fertilizer limitations would limit how many crops can be produced in a year and those limitations could be too much for some farmers to bear. Groot explained that while the goal to improve water quality conditions is admirable, there are other efforts that could be more effective and less damaging to the agricultural industry.
“If we’re going to spend money on water quality objectives than it should be on-farm practices and management decisions that are investments in that water quality objective rather than spending a whole lot of money on collecting data and then doing monitoring and reporting,” said Groot. “To the level that they’re proposing at this point, it’s going to prohibit anyone from really making those long term investments in new technologies, new irrigation efficiencies, on-farm practices that really can improve those water quality conditions.”