EPA’s Acting Secretary Andrew Wheeler Visits The Valley With Congressman Denham
News Release Edited by Patrick Cavanaugh
Following his recent visit to the Valley, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler sent a letter to the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) in Sacramento, expressing concern over several aspects of the proposed Bay-Delta plan. A copy of the letter is availablehere.
In the letter, Wheeler questions the effectiveness of drastically increasing flows to improve native fish species when studies show several additional factors contribute to their dwindling populations—including predation from non-native species, which the Bay-Delta plan does not address.
“I’m pulling every available resource to stop the state’s dangerous water grab,”said U.S. Representative Jeff Denham(R-Turlock). “Both the Department of Interior and EPA have now directly weighed in against Sacramento’s plan to steal our water.”
Oakdale Irrigation District General Manager Steve Knell said: “Finally, EPA Administrator Wheeler’s letter has put common sense back on the table in addressing the State’s draconian Water Plan. Thank you Congressman Denham for your efforts in bringing Mr. Wheeler to our area to hear our concerns.”
“This State Water Plan will devastate water storage in our dams, drive river temperatures to lethal levels and destroy the very fish species we at the local level are trying to protect. Our rivers deserve better. We have the science to show this, we have provided it to the State, and they have ignored it. We continued to advocate that sending more water down the river and not addressing other stressors is not an answer, and the State has ignored that too.”
South San Joaquin Irrigation District General Manager Peter Rietkerk said: “On behalf of the South San Joaquin Irrigation District, I would like to thank you and your staff for bringing Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler to our region on October 11, 2018. The meeting was a success, and our message was clearly heard, evidenced by today’s letter from the EPA to the State Water Board. We’ve continued to lament the devastating impacts of State’s plan to local drinking and irrigation water supplies, and to protected fish species within our rivers, and it is great to know that the EPA has listened and will be looking for balance and accountability from the State Water Board if they choose to approve this outrageous plan.”
At Denham’s request, several key administration officials have visited the Central Valley and have been actively engaged in policies to fight Sacramento’s water grab and increase water storage for our farmers and residents. This is the latest result of many such actions.
On July 27,Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burmansubmitted a strongly worded comment expressing serious legal concerns with the latest Bay-Delta amendment. The comment followed a visit by U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) Secretary Ryan Zinke to our impacted reservoirs at request of Denham on July 20. Additionally, Zinke sent an internal memo to DOI agencies on August 17 requesting all Central Valley Project authorities be provided to him for disposal to combat the state’s plan.
FollowingDenham’s September 28 letter requesting executive action, the President signed a memorandum to bring more storage to the Valley and address hydroelectric relicensing at Don Pedro, requiring agencies to consider local plans like the Tuolumne River Management Plan developed by Modesto and Turlock Irrigation Districts. Denham previously released an animated video on NMFS Sacramento’s dangerous water grab.
As a follow-up to the presidential memorandum, Denham recently hosted a call with senior administration officials from the Bureau of Reclamation to discuss the details of the memorandum, next steps in the process, and allow irrigation districts and farm bureaus an opportunity to ask questions.
The president’s order supplements legislation authored by Denham to support innovative financing opportunities for water projects throughout the western United States. Denham’s New WATER Act (H.R. 434) passed and was signed into law as part of America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 (WRDA). Eligible projects include new reservoirs, below ground storage projects, recycling and desalination projects. This legislation supports large projects like enlargement of Shasta Dam, construction of Sites Reservoir and Temperance Flat Dam, and expanding Los Vaqueros Reservoir.
A Statement from Monsanto Following San Francisco Verdict
No Evidence that Glyphosate Causes Cancer
By Scott Partridge, Monsanto Vice President
Like everyone else following the Dewayne Johnson v. Monsanto Co. trial, my colleagues and I have deep sympathy for Mr. Johnson’s plight. Our hearts go out to the Johnson family, and we understand their desire for answers. Glyphosate is not the answer. Glyphosate does not cause cancer. The jury got it wrong. We will appeal the jury’s opinion and continue to vigorously defend glyphosate, which is an essential tool for farmers and others. We are confident science will prevail upon appeal.
The jury’s opinion does not change the science. Glyphosate has a more than 40-year history of safe use. Over those four decades, researchers have conducted more than 800 scientific studies and reviews that prove glyphosate does not cause cancer.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Joint FAO/WHO Meeting on Pesticide Residues (JMPR) both recently reaffirmed glyphosate does not cause cancer. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other regulatory authorities in Europe, Canada, Japan, Australia, Korea, and elsewhere routinely review all approved pesticide products and have consistently reaffirmed that glyphosate does not cause cancer.
Rather than arguing the science, the plaintiff’s lawyers repeatedly crossed the line, distorted the facts and used baseless and egregious emotional appeals to inflame the jury. We are deeply troubled by the conduct of the plaintiff’s lawyers in this case. The judge admonished this conduct on several occasions and instructed the jury to ignore these statements. However, we are concerned that this conduct unduly influenced the jury’s deliberations, and we will be raising this issue in our appeal.
The plaintiff’s lawyers know they cannot win on the science. This lawsuit is based solely on the opinion of one organization called IARC. IARC is not a regulatory authority and did no independent studies. IARC is the same organization that determined beer, meat, cell phones, and coffee cause cancer. Investigative reports by Reuters and the Times of London have uncovered that IARC members reviewing glyphosate concealed important scientific data, edited out the conclusions of key studies, and were closely aligned with U.S. trial lawyers.
After IARC’s opinion was announced in 2015, U.S. trial lawyers started running advertising campaigns to recruit people for their lawsuits against Monsanto. There were no lawsuits blaming glyphosate for cancer until after IARC’s opinion. A federal judge overseeing some of these lawsuits recently stated that plaintiffs’ evidence is “shaky” and any lawyer faces a “daunting challenge” in bringing a case to trial based on IARC’s opinion.
Our next step is to file post-trial motions with the Court. Following the Court’s ruling on the motions, we will file our appeal with the California Court of Appeals if needed. We are fully confident that science will prevail in the end. Glyphosate-based herbicides are too important to farmers and others for these baseless lawsuits to go unchallenged.
Dave Brassard of Brassard Pesticide Regulatory Solutions, based in Washington D.C., regularly assists with getting new products registered with the EPA. California Ag Today spoke with him about making comments regarding the registration status of crop protection products.
“We’re pesticide consultants, and we basically assist registrants into getting everything registered, and getting through a lot of the data requirements, data waiver processes, that they need to go through,” he explained.
Brassard and his wife have a combined total of 73 years experience working in the EPA’s office of pesticide programs.
“The importance of data collection in pesticide regulatory reform, and the need for real data collection to be used in growers defense. Especially when growers reach out for support, the data is the most important, and the most reliable, form of evidence to present to the EPA,” he said.
“What typically happens is we will keep track and count the number of comments. But a lot of comments are very generic, and are not supported by data,” Brassard said
Simply having a large number of comments is not enough; it’s the quality content that really matters.
“So a lot of times it just becomes a little blurb that we had 10,000 comments from stakeholders worried about a concern, but what really, I think, makes a big difference, is if it’s somebody sends in data that can change EPA’s opinion on something,” Brassard explained.
“Let’s say that the EPA is going to regulate a chemical that is the only chemical to control, say, an obscure pest that we didn’t even consider in our original analysis. Somebody sends in that studies, and boy that stops the presses! It’s, ‘Let’s review this,’ ” Brassard said. “Does this change our opinion on anything? Can we make an exception for this particular use-pattern? Is there a different kind of risk-mitigation that we can impose?”
“Sending in real data are comments that make a real difference,” he said
California Farm Bureau Federation says Republican President, House and Senate are good news for California Ag
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director
At the recent 98th Annual Meeting of the California Farm Bureau Federation (CFBF) there was definitely a positive buzz in the air regarding the recent election.
Walnut and almond grower and CFBF President Paul Wenger said agriculture should take quick advantage of what is an unexpected trifecta.
“During the Bush administration, the Republicans controlled the house and the Senate and also the White House, and we didn’t quite get done the things that we want to get done, but I think there was a signal sent in this last election,” Wenger said. “It surprised everybody. It surprised the Republicans, the Democrats, the Independents – everybody. The establishment. The non-establishment.”
Wenger said the industry has an opportunity to work with the incoming Trump Administration to actually get some things done. “I think the voters sent a very clear signal. We don’t want business as usual. We want to see things get done. People need jobs. People need to be able to not be held down by all this regulatory morasses out there, and so I think in the first 100 days and definitely within the first 14 months, it will make or break this administration,” Wenger said.
“We need to work together. We need to get moderate Democrats with the Republicans. We cannot allow … divisions within the Republican party. We’re lucky to have California Congressman and House Majority leader Kevin McCarthy in a very influential position,” Wenger said. “We have a great list of congressmen around the state – not only in the Republican but the Democrat side – to work together. So let’s solve some problems.”
Wenger noted that agriculture needs relief from the Environmental Protection Agency.
“I think one of the things that the Trump Administration wants to do through the Interior and the EPA is to get some relaxation or some equity in the Endangered Species Act,” Wenger said.
“The Endangered Species Act was put in under a Republican administration, but nobody thought it would be carried out to the extreme that it is. It’s a very immovable object. Let’s get some flexibility in this that gives mankind the same equal footing that we have for other species because we’re dependent upon that water,” Wenger said. “We can have a healthy environment and a healthy economy and produce food, but so far, those doors have been slammed shut, and it’s only one way, and that’s the species way.”
The Trans Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement is another issue. “We’re going to have to work with the Trump Administration. He came out during the campaign, said he was against it. He said he was against NAFTA. We need these trade agreements,” Wenger said. “He said he was going to put up a wall, but the other day he said in that wall there’s going to be doors, so if we can work with this Trump Administration and make sure that we have an available legal workforce, that’s great, but Waters of the US (WOTUS) is dead in the first few days of his administration,” Wenger said. “This will be good for all farmers and ranchers across the country.”
WOTUS is a rule that was a 2015 ruling by EPA as part of the Clean Water Act, which says that the EPA as expanded agency over bodies of water and even low areas of ag land where water can settle. It has been met with lawsuits form many states, and major pushback by agriculture.
Wenger said that the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) may also get another look. “We think there’s a good potential that they’ll take another look at and make it more practical rather than this onerous rule that everybody’s trying to figure out,” Wenger said. “Also, we think the estate tax is something that he’ll take a look at.”
“We’re excited to work with a new administration, see what we can forge in the first 100 days for sure, and at least in the first 14 months so that not only do we have a trifecta for the first two years of his administration, but the last two years too,” Wenger said.
We are witnessing the dismantling of the California water conveyance system that supplies drinking water for 25 million California residents and four million acres of prime farmland in the San Joaquin Valley.
Our water resources are being “Withheld” from the very people of this state who have shown what “Free Enterprise” can do not only for the well-being of all in California, but the entire nation. Unfortunately, several major environmental groups and complacent politicians are killing the freedoms that have been the bulwark of success in California. Let me explain.
Water is our most valuable renewable resource and Mother Nature gives it to California in copious amounts during most years. What we do with that water—water management—is critical to the future of the Golden State.
On average, 200.0 million acre-feet of water a year blankets our state. One acre-foot is equal to 325,851 gallons of water. Of that precipitation, 75% originates north of the Sacramento River. The other 25% falls in central and southern California.
The water that is not manageable by us is 120.0 million acre-feet. Some of it evaporates, but most of it settles into the ground, fills lakes, and what remains heads for the Pacific Ocean. The balance of the water is called “directable” surface water (80,000,000 acre-feet) and this is where we have the opportunity to put it to its best and proper use.
By 2005, according to the Department of Water Resources, 48% of that directable water went to the environment, 41% to agriculture and the remaining 11% to rural areas. This balance of such a precious resource seemed at the time to be equitable to all parties, thanks to the ingenuity of our forefathers in the 20th century. Their foresight gave us a water conveyance system second to none in the entire world.
California’s water conveyance system had four major objectives:
To provide reliable water deliveries to 25 million people to avoid water shortages that would otherwise exist and continually plague two-thirds of the California population.
To support four million acres in central California of what the National Geographic Magazine proclaimed to be the most productive farmland in the world.
To reinforce our natural environment.
To recharge our groundwater supplies.
Some distinctions should be made here as to how much directable water we are actually concerned about. At full capacity, the two California water conveyance systems—the State Water Project (SWP) and the federal Central Valley Project (CVP)—deliver water from northern California to southern and central California. Each system, the CVP and the SWP, has the capacity to each deliver 4.0 million acre-feet water each year. However, this water delivery capacity has never been tested. The record shows that in the years prior to 2005, the average total delivery COMBINED for both projects was 5.4 million acre-feet per year. The ultimate users of this water went to agriculture (60%) and the rural population (40%).
The volume of water available, on average, from the Sacramento River, including the San Joaquin River, is 30.3 million acre-feet. It is from this volume of water that the 5.4 million acre-feet are sent south.
In 2007, several environmental organizations led by Natural Resources Defense Council took the Department of Water Resources to court to compel the court to enforce the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The court ruling to enforce this law declared that the giant water export pumps that raise the water from the Delta into the California Aqueduct were cut back because it was suspect that the pumps were killing too many delta smelt, an endangered species.
Even in flood years restricted pumping has reduced the water flow to a fraction of the contracted normal flow. Henceforth, since 2007, our water deliveries to urban and agricultural areas have been severely compromised.
The enforcement of these laws is now negating the four major functions of the giant California water conveyance system outlined with the possible exception of the natural environment. Now mind you, this water comes from northern California where 75% of the rain in California falls, averaging over 50 inches a year. Central and southern California “average” less than 15 inches a year.
During the seven years from 2007 through 2014, average deliveries to farms have been reduced to less than one acre-foot per year. Most agricultural crops require 3 ½ acre-feet of water per year. Today, without recourse, these farms are left with barely enough water to keep their plants alive. As for the hardship visited upon 25 million consumers, the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) in southern California is a good example.
The MWD services 19 million accounts, and prior to 2007, was receiving 40% of its water from the SWP. That water source has now only been able to supply approximately 10% of their needs. Consequently, due to seeking other sources to replace their water losses, rate increases to their customers over the years 2007 to 2014 have doubled. On top of all these setbacks, Mother Nature now has shown us her own drought versus our manufactured water crisis. All the way through this synthetic drought, the average rate of precipitation at the source of our water in northern California has been 45 inches each year.
In order to survive, those of us who must have an adequate supply of water to sustain us have been forced to pump more groundwater and/or purchase water from farmers who idle farmland and transfer their water to areas severely threatened with water shortages. For some of those lucky enough to find water for sale, the cost of water has become a severe financial burden. Where farms in the Central Valley were, prior to 2007, paying just under $100 per acre-foot, today if a willing seller can be found, the price can range anywhere from $1,000 to over $2,000 per acre-foot. In many such cases, water costs can exceed all other cultural costs combined. Likewise, the aquifer has dropped every year since 2007 due to frantic attempts by farmers to supplement the critical loss of surface water.
WHAT MUST BE DONE:
The effects of water deprivation over an eight-year period by a man-made drought capped by one of nature’s real droughts, is wrecking havoc with the nation’s food supply. The state of California is now in the grips of the Law of Diminishing Returns and is incapable of averting a disaster due to environmental regulations. Consequently, this country’s NATIONAL SECURITY is being compromised. CONGRESS MUST ACT NOW before further damage is done. These actions need to be taken:
1. The Endangered Species Act (ESA) must be excluded from jurisdiction over the pumps, which move northern water to central and southern California. The pumps are presently operating at about 15% of their capacity. This measure should be permanent and under the management of the Department of Water Resources (DWR).
2. The Endangered Species Act needs to be revised in order to “protect all species”, including humans, from collateral damage due to methods employed to save one species that results in severe damage to other species. This would be implemented through a biological opinion that would INCLUDE a list of all species that would be adversely affected by the METHOD employed to protect one specific species. This measure would make right just one of the irregularities in this flawed law, which attracts litigation like bees to honey. The law does not need to be struck down, simply rewritten to safeguard “all” species, including human beings.
3. California’s magnificent water distribution and conveyance system has no peer in this world. It is a remarkable feat of engineering admired by those who have come from far and near to marvel at its accomplishment. Yet, by environmental fiat, it has been reduced to a token of its capabilities. “Directable” water in California originally ceded one-third of its 80,000,000 acre-feet to the environment.
Today, according to the DWR, the environment now takes, not one-third, but 50% of the direct able water, leaving the rest to urban and farming communities. This is not what the original framers envisioned, but under the DWR, its control has been gradually diluted by federal agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and one of its extensions known as the STATE WATER RESOURCES CONTROL BOARD (SWRCB). THIS FIVE PERSON-BOARD IS STAFFED WITH ENVIRONMENTALISTS, such as their chairwoman, Felicia Marcos, a Governor Brown-appointee, whose professional background includes eight years with the EPA and five years with the radical Natural Resources Defense Council.
The influence of these federal agencies, backed by political power brokers’ lobbyists, has tilted the water distribution of surface water away from its original intended users. In essence, the environmentalists now control California’s surface water; and now, with the passage of the recent 7.5 billion dollar Water Bond, they will control our groundwater as well. If the water agencies do not perform with the desired results, the bottom-line is that final control will go to the SWRCB.
The ship of state now needs to be righted; it is drifting far off course. First of all, the EPA must be brought to heel. For a federal agency, it exerts far too much power. And, in so doing, has completely distorted California’s surface water delivery system. Next, the SWRCB must either be eliminated with FULL CONTROL restored to the Department of Water Resources, or completely reorganized as an ADVISORY BOARD to the DWR where ALL recipients of the surface water system would be represented. A ten-board membership might be in order, with a director and the nine remaining seats divided into three equal parts by experienced personnel in agriculture, city water management, and the environment, i.e., three persons from each classification and residents of northern, central and southern California.
4. Finally, one in every ten workers in California is either directly, or indirectly dependent upon the health of our vast agricultural industry.
It is time to step forward and reveal, with facts and figures, the house of cards that water management in this state has become. Likewise, those 25 million people in southern California, such as the MWD’s 19 million users who once got 40% of their water from the giant conveyance system, deserve to get that water back.
With years of a man-made drought compounded by a natural drought now in the eighth year, there is ample information available through various farm county records to quantify in lost dollars the cumulative effect of, (1) lost production due to forced fallowing of land, (2) water costs that are now ten times what they were prior to 2007, and (3) the heavy burden economically of converting hardworking farm labor to the welfare roles where some Central Valley towns are now approaching 50% unemployment. Combined, these costs will be in the billions of dollars, bloating further our California deficit.
The goal of society has always been to improve the human condition and for one generation to leave a better world for the next. The visionaries of the 20th century got it right. They delivered in spades to us, the beneficiaries, a modern miracle. It is a water conveyance system like none other to serve all the people of California. Where are those visionaries now? Rather than embrace the gifts of a reliable source of precious water, they proceed to dismantle the entire system. It is because of the system that California feeds the nation. This is not just a California crisis. It is one that will affect the entire nation. Look upon it as a national security threat and demand that our leaders do what is right for the vast majority of this country’s people.
Lawrence H. Easterling, Jr. Administrator, Kettleman Pistachio Growers and Director, American Pistachio Growers
Researchers are developing effective ways to control crop-destroying worm-like nematodes. One product, Nimitz, is not yet registered for use in California but is showing great promise in vegetables.
“We’ve been working with a number of different products over a number of years, and actually have two products; one is Nimitz, the other is still in development.,” said UC Riverside Cooperative Extension Associate Nematologist Antoon Ploeg. “Both look very promising in all three crops that we have been testing: tomatoes, melons, and carrots, so for us it’s been an exciting time!”
Ploeg and his team found remarkable results from nematode pressure plots. Non-treated plants were heavily galled and those that were treated with Nimitz showed a 95% reduction in galls.
“Something is going on here that makes us very excited, especially because the product has low toxicity,” said an enthusiastic Ploeg. “It has only a ‘Caution’ label, and has had the original restricted-entry interval (REI) of 24 hours reduced to zero.”
Nimitz has been approved by the EPA, but has not yet been approved for use in California.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced TODAY the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is taking steps to address the increase of herbicide resistant weeds in the country’s agricultural systems.
In California, glyphosate resistant weeds are found throughout the state, and growers are warned to minimize using the material back-to-back during weed control. More information can be found http://info.ucanr.org/weed_sept/.
“Weed control in major crops is almost entirely accomplished with herbicides today,” said Vilsack. “USDA, working in collaboration with the Environmental Protection Agency, must continue to identify ways to encourage producers to adopt diverse tactics for weed management in addition to herbicide control. The actions we are taking today are part of this effort.”
To help farmers manage their herbicide-resistant weeds more holistically and sustainably:
USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) will offer financial assistance under its Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) for herbicide resistant weed control practices that utilize Integrated Pest Management plans and practices.
Later this year NRCS will be soliciting proposals under the Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) Program for innovative conservation systems that address herbicide resistant weeds.
USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) will actively promote use of best management practices (BMPs) in design protocols for regulated authorized releases of genetically engineered (GE) crops and will include recommendations for BMPs with the authorization of field trials of HR crops.
USDA is partnering with the Weed Science Society of America (WSSA) and is providing funds to develop education and outreach materials for various stakeholders on managing herbicide resistant weeds. The Secretary has directed Dr. Sheryl Kunickis, Director of the USDA Office of Pest Management Policy, as the point person leading this effort with the USDA.
USDA works with the EPA
The issue of herbicide resistant weeds has become one of increasing importance for agriculture. When herbicides are repeatedly used to control weeds, the weeds that survive herbicide treatment can multiply and spread.
With EPA’s announcement TODAY on the registration of new uses for herbicide mixtures containing the herbicides 2,4-D and glyphosate (in the Enlist® formulation) in conjunction with new genetically-engineered crop varieties, farmers have more tools for improved management of emerging populations of herbicide-resistant weeds in corn and soybeans crops. In its decision for 2,4-D use on genetically modified corn and soybean, EPA has outlined new requirements for registrants as part of a product stewardship program.
The USDA Office of Pest Management Policy worked with EPA to address the issue of herbicide resistance through appropriate label language that will require registrants to develop a stewardship program for the herbicide, develop training and education on proper use of the product that includes diversifying weed management, investigate and report nonperformance, and develop and implement a remediation plan for suspected herbicide resistant weeds.
EPA intends to require the same stewardship plans for all new applications for product registration on genetically modified crops with the goal being to encourage effective resistance management while maintaining needed flexibility for growers.
USDA recognizes that the problem of herbicide resistant weed control will not be solved solely through the application of new herbicides. USDA has worked with the Weed Science Society of America for a number of years on identifying best management practices for farmers and on addressing impediments to adoption of those practices.
USDA will continue to work to ensure that growers have the diverse tools they need to address the management of herbicide resistant weeds.
While “progress” on the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan’s ambitious and controversial twin tunnels planning continues to mostly be marked by delay, Friant Division contractors and the Friant Water Authority are looking long and hard at findings in troubling computer modeling.
Friant Water Authoritydirectors were told at their August 28 meeting in Visalia that the twin tunnels proposal to bypass the fragile Delta not only lacks benefits for Friant users, it could actually make Friant’s future dry year water supply problems worse.
“Computer modeling shows it is a losing proposition with less water supply reliability to Friant, particularly in dry years,” said Ronald D. Jacobsma, FWA General Manager.
The FWA and its member districts have been evaluating the state’s twin tunnels plan to determine if Friant users would benefit from the two tunnels’ development. That includes San Joaquin River Exchange Contractor water, Cross Valley Canal water and San Joaquin River Restoration Program recirculation in addition to assumptions as to allocation of costs amongst water contractors.
All of this is crucial in Friant’s BDCP consideration because the tunnels, expected to cost many billions of dollars, are to be financed on a “beneficiary-pays” basis. Jacobsma said project proponents have indicated Friant’s share could be about $3 billion.
“The current process has lots of uncertainty,” Jacobsma said. “The bottom line is they won’t be starting construction any time soon on those twin tunnels.”
Delay, in fact, popped up again in late August when the California Department of Water Resources indicated that the BDCP needs more work as a result of the massive volume of public comments received on a draft environmental impact report.
Nancy Vogel, DWR spokeswoman, told the Sacramento Bee, “We’re going through it and we’re going to revise and send it back out for public review. We continue to look for ways to reduce the impacts to Delta residents and landowners.”
With a revised BDCP now scheduled to be released early next year, the newest delay is certain to consume several months. The plan has been seven years in the making.
The entire program’s cost is estimated at $25 billion. The BDCP is not to be funded through the pending state water bonds, should Proposition 1 be approved by voters. The Legislature intentionally kept the bond “Delta neutral” because of controversy surrounding the BDCP and twin tunnels.
The tunnels would be an isolated water conveyance system under the Delta between Courtland and state and federal water export pumping plants near Byron, northwest of Tracy.
Meanwhile, a new wrinkle in the twin-tunnels plan popped up August 28 when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency suggested the project could violate the Clean Water Act and increase harm to endangered species. EPA said the project could increase Delta concentrations of salinity, mercury, bromide, chloride, selenium and pesticides.
The California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) announced that once again, the majority of produce it tested annually had little or no detectable pesticide residues and posed no health risk to the public. 95 percent of all California-grown produce, sampled by DPR in 2013, was in compliance with the allowable limits.
“This is a vivid example that California fresh produce is among the safest in the world, when it comes to pesticide exposure,” said DPR Director Brian R. Leahy. “DPR’s scientifically robust monitoring program is an indication that a strong pesticide regulatory program and dedicated growers can deliver produce that consumers can have confidence in.”
DPR tested 3,483 samples of different fruits and vegetables sold in farmers markets, wholesale and retail outlets, and distribution centers statewide. More than 155 different fruits and vegetables were sampled to reflect the dietary needs of California’s diverse population.
Of all 3,483 samples collected in 2013:
43.53 percent of the samples had no pesticide residues detected.
51.51 percent of the samples had residues that were within the legal tolerance levels.
3.99 percent of the samples had illegal residues of pesticides not approved for use on the commodities tested.
0.98 percent of the samples had illegal pesticide residues in excess of established tolerances. A produce item with an illegal residue level does not necessarily indicate a health hazard.
Each piece of fruit or vegetable may legally contain trace amounts of one or more pesticides. The amount and type of pesticide (known as a tolerance), is limited by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. DPR’s Residue Monitoring Program staff carries out random inspections to verify that these limits are not exceeded.
Most of the 2013 illegal pesticide residues were found in produce imported from other countries and contained very low levels (a fraction of a part per million). The majority of the time they did not pose a health risk.
One exception occurred in 2013 when DPR discovered Cactus pads, imported from Mexico, that were tainted with an organophosphate-based pesticide. This had the potential to sicken people. DPR worked with the CA. Dept. of Public Health to issue an alert to consumers in February 2014. DPR also worked diligently to remove the entire product it from store shelves and distribution centers. In addition, DPR asked the US Food and Drug Administration to inspect produce at the borders and points of entry to stop shipments into California.
California has been analyzing produce for pesticide residues since 1926 and has developed the most extensive pesticide residue testing program of its kind in the nation. The 2013 pesticide residue monitoring data and previous years are posted at: http://www.cdpr.ca.gov/docs/enforce/residue/rsmonmnu.htm
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposal to expand the scope of “navigable waters” subject to Clean Water Act jurisdiction was drafted, according to the agency, to reduce uncertainty. It’s very clear the proposed waters of the U.S. rule is designed to allow the federal government to regulate every place water flows when it rains, including small and remote “waters” and ephemeral drains and ditches.
We all know that water flows downhill and that at some point, some of that water eventually finds its way into a creek, stream or river. Yet, based on nothing more than the flow of rainwater along a natural pathway across the land, the EPA wants to call vast areas of otherwise dry land “tributaries” and therefore “navigable waters.”
With its proposal to regulate land that is dry most of the year and miles from the nearest truly navigable water, EPA is putting farmers in a tenuous position. EPA and other supporters of the proposed rule have made much of a long-standing exemption for agriculture, and claim that it still stands; however, the proposed rule narrows that exemption and opens it up to litigation. The “normal farming and ranching” exemption only applies to a specific type of Clean Water Act permit for “dredge and fill” materials. There is also no farm or ranch exemption from Clean Water Act permit requirements for what EPA would call “pollutants.”
Ultimately, the new permitting requirements that would come with this proposal would mean that common farm activities could trigger Clean Water Act liability and the need for Section 402 National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits if pollutants could incidentally be deposited into ditches, ephemerals and other features that will now fall under federal jurisdiction.
At the same time EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are telling farmers and ranchers they’re got nothing to worry about because the exemption puts them in the clear, the agency is moving forward with a guidance document that will govern how it interprets the “normal farming” exemption contained in Section 404 of the Clean Water Act.
This interpretive rule makes fundamental changes in how the exemption for normal agricultural activities at “established” farms will be applied and enforced. Contrary to assertions by proponents, this interpretive rule narrows how the exemption is applied and increases farmers’ liability by requiring that farmers comply with Natural Resources Conservation Service conservation standards, which were previously voluntary, in order to be exempt from Section 404 permitting.
Like the proposed waters of the U.S. rule, the interpretive rule conflicts with congressional intent. In 1977, Congress amended the Clean Water Act to exempt “normal” farming, ranching and silviculture from Section 404 “dredge and fill” permit requirements. However, EPA and the Corps are now asserting that farmers are exempt from Section 404 permits so long as any of 56 listed practices comply with NRCS standards, despite the fact that those practices have qualified as the “normal” farming, ranching and silviculture activities for 37 years.
The newly proposed interpretation of “normal farming and ranching” would apply only to farms and ranches that EPA determines to be “established” and “ongoing”—not newer or expanded farms and ranches. Where does this leave the children and grandchildren of farmers and ranchers who want to work the land but need to grow the operation to support an expanding family? What does this mean for the billions of people who will need to be fed in the future?
Worried about the answers to those questions and the many threats the proposed rule poses to agriculture, the American Farm Bureau Federation launched a website at ditchtherule.fb.org to help farmers, ranchers, landowners and others express the need for EPA to “Ditch the Rule.” Focused on topics and analysis related to the proposed rule, the site includes several sections: Take Action, Go Social, Find Answers and Get Resources. We encourage you to visit the site, sign up to learn more, comment on the proposed rule and send tweets using the hashtag #DitchTheRule. You should also voice your concerns to your state and local officials and your U.S. representative and senators.