CCA role grows in water, nutrients

California Certified Crop Advisers (CCAs) total almost 500 and the number is growing.

CCAs can expect to become much busier in the future as water and nutrient management come under more regulatory scrutiny, according to a pair of experts on the subjects.

Lori Berger, executive director of the California Specialty Crop Council, told CCAs at their annual meeting in Tulare that nutrient management stewardship and air quality regulations are a growing issue in agriculture where CCA expertise will become more valuable to farmers and dairymen.

CCAs are accredited by the American Society of Agronomy. While this certification covers a wide array of agricultural areas, CCAs focus largely on water, fertility and air quality issues.

Renee Pinel, president of Western Plant Health Association, told the CCAs that nutrient management is the last regulatory frontier.

Agriculture, she said, has done a “good job” managing nutrients over the past 25 years, but with increasing litigation from environmental groups, nutrient use is now on the radar screen.

Water quality, however, is probably a larger blip with the impending regulations on irrigated lands runoff, as well as more monitoring and regulations of California groundwater resources.

The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board is about halfway through evaluating irrigated lands and proposing regulatory procedures to protect water quality.

Regardless of the regulations adopted, CCAs will likely play a key role in helping growers meet those regulations in monitoring and reporting on water quality.

CCAs can help growers develop water quality protection criteria to follow those plans, said Pinel.

The Water Board has a year and a half to develop a regulatory plan, said Pinel.

A similar scenario is unfolding with air quality and the role of fertilizer in climate changes. Pinel says $800,000 is being spent to evaluate the contribution of fertilizer to climate change. “We think the contribution is negligible, but we have to research that to know for sure,” she said.

Regardless of the outcome of that study, which will take a year and a half, Pinel said there will be pressure on growers to select fertilizer products that do not contribute to air quality degradation and to document that use.

CCAs, she said, will play a key role in that process for growers.

However, she encouraged CCAs to become actively engaged with growers now in that process, so when the regulatory hammer falls, growers will be ready.

Nutrient, water and air quality regulations will likely feature third party certifications, and this is where CCAs will play key roles.

Berger said CCAs also will play larger roles in issues like pollination protection, invasive pests, spray drift issues, record keeping for producers, and utilization of emerging technology as well as being an interface between urban and ag on the issue of food safety.

“The Certified Crop Adviser will benefit agriculture by bringing good science” into many future regulatory issues, she said.

California CCAs are among the 15,000 CCAs in the U.S. and Canada. Rob Mikkelsen, the new CaCCA chairman, said the CCA program is being expanded into South American and Asian agriculture.

CaCCA has recently created a manure management element to its certification process. An exam was offered recently for those who wanted to become accredited in this critical area of the state’s dairy industry.

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