It’s going to get either a little more expensive or a lot more expensive for local farmers.
In 2007, the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) adopted regulations requiring all agricultural and nursery operations to test wet-weather and dry-weather runoff for pollutants and report the test results.
“It’s important to remember that all owners of agricultural operations—large and small—will be required to either file a Notice of Intent directly with the RWQCB by Jan. 1, 2011, or join a monitoring group by Dec. 31, 2010,” said San Diego County Farm Bureau Executive Director Eric Larson.
These state-mandated requirements are just being implemented at the local level and are an outgrowth of state and federal legislation that was passed in the late 1980s. Those laws require growers to be in compliance with clean water regulations. That led to rules that require the use of best management practices to prevent pollution.
The rules have been expanded and call for water testing by growers to determine if any agricultural pollutants are reaching local rivers and streams. The testing requirement exists for most growers in the state and San Diego is one of the last regions to put it in place.
If a farm expects to generate $1,000 this year in gross sales, or in any of the next four years, then they need to be a part of this program. While growers can undertake this task themselves and report directly to the control board, Larson explained the cost-sharing benefits of joining the farm bureau’s monitoring group.
The RWQCB estimates a cost of $15,000 to $18,000 to have a program prepared and to submit required reports. In addition, there is a cost of approximately $1,440 per collection and $635 per sample analysis. Farm Bureau members are eligible to join the San Diego Region Irrigated Lands Group (SDRILG) and participate in the cost-sharing benefits provided by the group.
A farmer may join the San Diego County Farm Bureau, which is open to all farmers, and be eligible for participation in the group. Additionally, the bureau created a discount program to encourage early signups, allowing the funding of the program.
If farmers join the group before June 30, 2009, they will pay $750 or $150 per acre, whichever is less. After July 1, members joining 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 SDRILG, which will perform or contract for the sampling and testing, will also assess an annual acreage fee after the requirement takes affect. The acreage fee is not yet determined but will be spread among all monitoring group members.
Larson said that more than 1,200 farms are currently enrolled in the SDRILG, with the two largest groups being 224 farms with 2 acres or smaller, and 180 with farms between 3 to 5 acres. More than half are avocado growers, he said.
At a meeting of the Ramona Valley Vineyard Association in the Sizzler last week, a show of hands revealed that of the more than 50 members present, only three had thus far joined the SDRILG. Non-farm bureau members will receive a letter from the bureau soon letting them know they can join to get access to the member benefit.
Additionally, a notice is going out to members reminding them that the entry fee to enroll in the group will be going up on June 30.
“We are forced to pass along these kinds of regulatory costs to the consumer,” said Jennifer Jenkins, Pamo Valley Winery owner. “They will have to show up in the price of a bottle of local wine”.