Since 2012, the Central Coast Water Board has required all growers participate in the Agriculture Order (Ag Order R3-2012-0011) or risk penalties of up to a $10,000 fine, per day until the operation is in compliance.
Financial ramifications aside, it’s important for all growers to participate in and comply with the Ag Order for other reasons. It’s the responsibility of every grower to operate in a way that helps preserve the land and water sources for future generations. Additionally, every Central Coast grower has the opportunity to be a leader in best practices for running a sustainable Ag business.
Earlier this year, the Water Board met to discuss updates to the Ag Order that go into effect for 2017 and into 2018. This version of the Ag Order, referred to as Ag Order 3.0, is an interim order. In 2020, another updated order, Ag Order 4.0, is expected to come into effect.
Many of the changes were implemented into Ag Order 3.0 to better accommodate the growing season while others were updated to achieve the Water Board’s primary goal of improved accuracy of information being submitted.
Here are the 10 most impactful changes to the Central Coast 2017 Ag Order and what growers need to know to ensure they remain in compliance.
1. Ongoing eNOI Updates
Prior to 2017, eNOIs (Electronic Notice of Intent) were due annually on October 1. With the new change, eNOIs must be updated within 60 days of any changes made on the farm or its information, such as change in acreage or crop, change in ownership or leases, or change to irrigation method.
2. Population of Impaired Waterways
There is no longer a section on the eNOI for growers to manually input impaired waterways that are adjacent to their farm. Instead, growers will note their location using a GPS pin and all adjacent, impaired waterways will automatically pull into the form. Not only does this remove error and subjectivity as to what’s deemed “adjacent,” it will confirm the proper Tier status of every grower.
3. Bi-Annual Water Samples
Two times in 2017, all domestic wells and one primary Ag well must be sampled on every farm. Due to seasonal factors of operation that affect nitrogen loading on crops and leaching, samples are required once each in spring (deadline June 30) and fall (deadline December 31). This requirement is only in place for 2017, though it may be included in Ag Order 4.0 in 2020.
4. Annual Compliance Forms Due March 1
In an effort to better accommodate growers’ businesses and seasonal factors, Annual Compliance Forms are no longer due on October 1. Beginning in 2018, these annual forms are due March 1.
5. Sections B and C Removed from the Annual Compliance Form
Growers are no longer reporting irrigation water information or risk assessment. Electronic uploads via the GeoTracker database, as well as crop types grown, will now be used by the Water Board to determine these sections for every grower.
6. Photo Monitoring No Longer Required
For farms adjacent to impaired water ways, photo monitoring, intended to show an overview of how a farm potentially may affect a waterway is no longer required.
7. TNA Reporting
All Tier 2 and Tier 3 farms growing the following crops are now required to report TNA (Total Nitrogen Applied):
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), or parsley. Prior to this change, only High Risk farms (determined by Section C) were required to report TNA.
8. All Nitrogen Applied
In addition to TNA reporting, growers with the crops listed above must record ALL nitrogen applied for the year.
9. TNA Reporting Period
Rather than report TNA and recording all nitrogen applied from September 1 thru August 31, the reporting period is now on a calendar year – January 1 thru December 31.
10. TNA Deadline
Like Annual Compliance Forms, TNA Forms are now due March 1. The change goes into effect for 2018.
By eliminating opportunities for human error, using available technology, and shifting timelines to better accommodate growers, the Central Coast Water Board is looking to achieve its goal that all information being reported via the Ag Order is as accurate and thorough as possible.
Growers should be aware that the Water Board’s increased involvement in Ag Order forms also means more opportunity to see growers who aren’t participating in the requirements. This makes it even more important for growers to take very seriously their own responsibility to operate in an environmentally-ethical way; to help preserve the land and water sources for the future, and to demonstrate leadership in best practices for running a sustainable business.
To learn more about the Central Coast Ag Order, please visit this site. The site also includes a list of certified Technical Assistance Providers for all growers seeking professional consulting and assistance.
About The Author
Danilu Ramirez, CCA, PCA is a Water Management Consultant for RDO Water, based in Santa Maria, CA.
To learn more about the Central Coast Ag Order and how to ensure your farm is in compliance, contact her at 805-345-5418 or [email protected].