Group helps farmers comply with new water quality rules

Farmers may still join San Diego County Farm Bureau’s San Diego Region Irrigated Lands Group, a runoff monitoring organization established to help its members comply with new water quality regulations.

In 2007, the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board adopted regulations requiring all agricultural and nursery operations to test wet-weather and dry-weather runoff for pollutants and report the test results.  The regulations allow for growers to undertake monitoring and reporting responsibilities themselves and report directly to the control board. Growers are allowed to participate as group members.

“We formed a monitoring group in response to that,” said San Diego County Farm Bureau Executive Director Eric Larson.  “We formed a monitoring group for Farm Bureau members to join.”

Although participation in any runoff monitoring group is voluntary, a group allows farmers to share costs. The RWQCB estimates a cost of $18,000 to prepare a program and submit required reports.  That figure does not include estimated sampling and testing costs of $1,440 per collection and $635 per sample analysis.

Because Regional Water Quality Control Board boundaries are based on hydrologic regions, Region 9 includes portions of Orange and Riverside Counties and most of San Diego County. The most notable exclusion in San Diego County is Borrego Springs.  Members of the Orange County Farm Bureau and the Riverside County Farm Bureau will be eligible to join the San Diego County Farm Bureau’s San Diego Region Irrigated Lands Group (SDRILG).

Growers who are not farm bureau members and farm bureau members who believe that another monitoring group would be more suitable to their needs may join another group, if one exists.

“Anybody else could form a monitoring group,” Larson said.  “We couldn’t tell anybody not to.”

Each grower or monitoring group must file a notice of intent with the RWQCB by Jan. 1, 2011.  Throughout the state, some county

farm bureaus and water districts have agreed to be program administrators, some 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations have been

created, and some commodity groups have formed coalitions.

While a farmer may join the San Diego County Farm Bureau, which is open to all farmers, and be eligible for participation in the group, the farm bureau created a discount from the one-time fee to encourage early signups, which will allow the farm bureau to fund the program once it takes effect.  Those who joined the monitoring group in 2008 paid $500 or $100 per acre, whichever is less, while those who join between January 2009 and June 2009 will pay $750 or $150 per acre, whichever is less.

After July 1, 2009, all members will pay $200 per acre up to $1,000.

The signup fee covers organizational costs and creates a source of funding to provide matching funds for grants.  The San Diego Region Irrigated Lands Group, which will perform or contract for the sampling and testing, will also assess an annual acreage fee after the requirement takes effect.  The acreage fee is yet to be determined but will be spread among all monitoring group members.

A monitoring group will establish and staff the operation and administration of a program, register participants, and hire a consulting engineering firm for the testing, which involves select sampling sites downstream from farms in watersheds, taking water samples and testing for compliance, and reporting back to the monitoring group.  The monitoring group will then report the results to the regional water quality control board, and, if pollution is discovered, efforts will be made to remediate the problem.

   
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