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One of many pieces of legislation to be voted on this year by the California legislature is a Budget Trailer Bill (BTB), formerly SB 623, that will create the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Act.

The act will establish a fund managed by the State Water Resources Control Board to which all California water users will pay a modest fee, while providing a pathway to compliance for agriculture as it relates to nitrate levels in groundwater. Those funds will then be used to upgrade and update drinking water systems for disadvantaged communities throughout California, ensuring every citizen has access to safe and affordable drinking water.

It is understood that nitrogen applications in California can contribute to levels in groundwater exceeding acceptable nitrate levels as determined by the State of California. As a result, some may point to agriculture and expect us to deal with the issue; however, most people do not understand what is required to meet the nutrient needs of agricultural commodities or the food we eat everyday. Furthermore, farmers oftentimes follow advice from the U.S. government and land-grant universities on fertilizer application rates in an effort to increase food production to better serve a growing population.

Agriculture has invested in better application methods and management practices over the last several years to minimize our environmental footprint.

In return, some lawmakers appreciate that this issue was created over time and will take time to correct. The Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Act will provide time for that correction to happen by ensuring that safe water is available while allowing for new techniques to be implemented and by allowing time for results to be realized. This is a benefit to all of California, and the costs burden will be shared amongst all Californians.

Today, agriculture has the rare opportunity to help everyone in California, while providing our industry certainty in the regulatory process. Please take a few minutes out of your day to contact your local State Assembly and Senate representatives to encourage them to vote yes on the BTB to create the Safe and Affordable Drinking Act.

You have the chance to be part of the solution for a better California.

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Dusty Ference is the Executive Director of the Kings County Farm Bureau and has spent his career in various sectors of the agriculture industry. A resident of Tulare County Dusty and his wife farm in addition to his work at Farm Bureau.  

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