New Recordkeeping Requirements Proposed for Central Coast Ag Order

The Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (Central Coast Water Board) is proposing to update its Agricultural Order (Ag Order), which may result in significant new recordkeeping requirements for some farms in the region.1 Impacted farmers can submit a comment by January 3 or attend an upcoming public hearing on March 7-9, 2017, at the Watsonville City Council Chambers. Spanish translation will be provided at the meeting.

Background

The California state Irrigated Lands Program regulates discharges from irrigated agricultural lands statewide. Each of the state’s nine regional water quality control boards are at different stages of implementing Waste Discharge Requirements for their regions. These requirements are issued as Ag Orders that must be followed by commercial agricultural producers who irrigate, under threat of fines and other penalties.

Determine if your farm is located in the jurisdiction of the Central Coast Water Board.

Who Will Be Impacted by Changes to the Ag Order?

The changes to the Ag Order will impact CCOF members who are classified as Tier 2 farms under the Central Coast Water Board’s three-tiered system. The tiers require increasing levels of monitoring and reporting for farms depending on their potential to contaminate groundwater.

Most small-scale organic farmers fall into Tier 1. However, organic farmers with irrigated acreage of 50 acres or more which grow “high-risk” crops are in Tier 2. Crops classified as high risk are beet, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, Chinese cabbage (napa), collard, endive, kale, leek, lettuce (leaf and head), mustard, onion (dry and green), spinach, strawberry, pepper (fruiting), and parsley. (See p. 18-19 of the Draft Order for more information on Tier criteria.)

Proposed Changes

  • Previously, Tier 2 and 3 farms in the Central Coast Water Board region could use a Nitrate Loading Risk Factor Determination test to calculate their supposed level of risk to groundwater. Under the proposed new rules, these tests will be replaced with Total Nitrogen Applied Reporting, which will require growers to report all fertilizer applications throughout the year, including nitrates in well water used for irrigation.
  • Additionally, all nitrogen applied on the farm, including on crops not considered to be high-risk, must be reported.
  • Inputs that must be reported include any form of nitrogen, including compost and compost teas, manures, and organic fertilizers.
  • The water board will require that growers report the basis for all nitrogen applications. This could mean that growers need to start testing soils for nitrogen levels.

More Information

Read the notice of opportunity for public comment and public hearing, which contains links to the proposed order and details on how to submit comments. Comments are due by January 3, 2017. A public hearing on the proposed rules will be held March 7-9, 2017, at the Watsonville City Council Chambers.

For further information, email Christopher Rose, Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program manager, or call (805) 542-4770. Interested persons may also contact staff by emailing AgNOI@waterboards.ca.gov. Para información en español, llame a Monica Barricarte a (805) 549-3881.

1This region comprises these counties: Santa Clara (south of Morgan Hill), San Mateo (southern portion), Santa Cruz, San Benito, Monterey, Kern (small portions), San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura (northern portion).

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