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Nitrogen Fertilizer Application Reporting Requirement Delayed

The new requirement for reporting nitrogen fertilizer applications to cropland has been delayed one year, a result of developments stemming from a report to the legislature about nitrate contamination in groundwater, the Coalition for Urban/Rural Environmental Stewardship (CURES) reports in its current newsletter. The East San Joaquin Water Quality Coalition had its first nitrogen reports due on March 1, 2014. That deadline has been extended to March 1, 2015, a date approved at the Oct. 3 meeting of the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board.

The extension was prompted by California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) and the State Water Board pulling together expert panels on how best to monitor for and assess the impact of nitrate from ag nitrogen uses, which might impact what growers will need to do as part of the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program requirements. The panels were formed based on recommendations contained in what is being called the “Harter Report,” a University of California study sponsored by the State Water Board. The report resulted in recommendations to the legislature on steps to address increasing nitrate levels in groundwater in the San Joaquin and Salinas Valleys.

Two of 15 recommendations in the report focus on agricultural uses of nitrogen fertilizers. The first charged the California Department of Food and Agriculture to create a “Task Force” to develop a nitrogen “tracking and reporting system” for high-risk agricultural areas of the state, and to determine appropriate nitrogen mass balance approaches for the same areas. The second recommendation charged the State Water Board to convene an “Expert Panel” to advise the state on several technical issues including identifying methodologies for determining nitrate movement into groundwater.

The CDFA Nitrogen Tracking and Reporting Task Force held four day-long meetings in August and September and released its report of recommendations on Dec. 6, 2013. The report can be downloaded here.

The 30-member Task Force was made up of several coalition managers, representatives from the Central Valley and Central Coast Regional Water Boards, the University of California, the environmental justice community and agricultural trade organizations, among others. The State Water Board has yet to convene its Expert Panel.

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