They say if you let a camel's nose under a tent, then eventually the whole camel will get inside. I'm not Lawrence of Arabia, but nothing is more intrusive than the State Water Resources Control Board.
California's water is mostly "controlled" by the Water Resources Control Board, just like their iron-fisted title implies. It spends $828 million enacting stacks of regulations, including $167 million on salaries and benefits. Only about 4 percent of its money comes from the General Fund, which "does not reflect a drop in reduced activity by the board this decline has been largely offset by newly available bond funds and revenues from increased fees" (www.allgov.com).
This five-member board spews forth more regulations as our state cuts its own environmental spending. The board's funding continues by taxing farmers and by tapping new sources of revenue from them. They have expanded their bureaucratic control and outreach, as this board has spawned nine regional water boards, each assigned to a unique climate, topography, geology and hydrology.
The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board administrates our region; it is the largest one. The Central Valley board was preoccupied with costly clean-up of underground fuel tanks, but now its regulating arms are wrapped tightly around agriculture.
Farmers are paying coalition fees for water testing of sediment, pesticides and herbicides, water and sediment toxicity, salinity, E. coli, dissolved oxygen, and pH. Individual farmers have somewhat mitigated these monitoring costs by forming water coalitions that spread these expenses among many farmers. Nonetheless, coalition dues (taxes) have skyrocketed from 50 cents an acre in 2004 to $3.12 per acre in 2013. Projected taxes for next year are $4 per acre, thereafter increasing $5 per acre or more per annum.
Many farms, like mine, have drip irrigation systems, but we're still required to pay water drainage taxes. Keep in mind, we have no water drainage! Obviously we're forced to pay these drainage taxes because the control boards have greater plans for spending our money.
Much more taxation revenue can be extracted via the new management practices of the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program, estimated to cost farmers another whopping $20 per acre to $110 per acre. Nitrogen and groundwater will be essentially monitored, regulated, and taxed as well.
The Water Control Board is only one of the five-headed hydra called Cal-EPA. These environmental agencies expropriate money from farmers for their own propagation and job security. Farmers should not cooperate with these racketeers, as it's only emboldened them to demand more from us while jeopardizing our ability to farm. Henceforth, these parasites must be recognized as such and starved of our working capital. Their harmful policies should not be encouraged with more debt financing, either.
How much more of the burden in "cleaning the environment" can the private sector bear? Government regulations are instrumental in sending our jobs to China, while making our farms and small businesses uncompetitive. These environmental regulations and taxes do little but destroy what's left of a sinking economy.
Michelena is a Patterson-area farmer who served as a visiting editor at The Bee in 2009. Send questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.