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Public Responses


Fertilizer Smog

Feb 06, 2018

WATER WORKSHOP 67: Water for food and people hit pieces in the media are designed to lay the foundation and justification for pending regulatory policy that predictably follows. When will our most important trade leaders and representatives take a courageous, firm, and laudable stance? Wayne Western Jr.. lays it out precisely. You’ll want to read it in its entirety.

Last week UC Davis produced a study titled, “Agriculture is a Major Source of NOx Pollution in California.” This purposefully damaging title is followed by a purposefully damaging introduction. It reads that nitrogen oxides are a primary component of air pollution that causes premature death and declines in biodiversity worldwide. It continues. “Sight-based findings of NOx emissions from California’s agriculture soils COULD contribute to air quality issues; however, a statewide estimate is hitherto lacking.”

In two sentences, the reader moves from crisis mode in premature death of all living things, to his or her relaxing to air quality issues. This study is not meant for the general public’s joy of reading. This study is for the bureaucracy to skim through only to pick out parts it can use to form policy, to reinforce opinion, or to provide due diligence in upcoming policy.

The study reads that cropland soil in the Central Valley is estimated to increase the NOx budget by 20-51\%. The California Air Resources Control Board (CARB) estimates that under 4\% of the states NOx budget can be attributed to cropland soils. Here, we run into a discrepancy between CARB and UC Davis. Here, I get the feeling that someone at CARB, the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB), UC Davis, or in Sacramento, realized this little mishap needed a fix. It was time to produce a new study. They did.

But there is an explanation. Prior studies contributing to the less than 4\% number from CARB were merely based on sights located only 125 miles from Sacramento. Obviously, we know this is not sufficient for it does not reach far enough into the target zone (that target zone being the Central Valley, south of the Delta). This target zone is named with the assumption that the most heavily fertilized soils are further south. It goes on.

“The timing of fertilization in California varies regionally, considering the variety of crop species grown and different management practices used. Our model validation was estimated to a handful of empirical studies. (13,14,27-30).” The studies they refer to are the from the following years respectively: 2015,1997,1992,1996,1997,1989. That’s right. Their validation is derived by studies up to 29 years old!

To the general public, this goes unnoticed. To the grower, it is insulting. To the bureaucracy where truth does not matter, it is useful. In an eight-page report, including references, UC Davis has just discounted 30 years of technological advancements and millions of dollars spent by the agriculture industry who produce the safest food and fiber in the world. In so doing, this same agriculture industry is being compared to the practices currently used by third world countries. Insulting indeed.

But we are used to being insulted. And being insulted is not the worst thing that will come of this study.

Misleading studies are nothing new from UC Davis. I am reminded of many studies about smelt, salmon, and fallowed acres. I remember recently in August of 2016 when a UC Davis “study” found that 78,000 acres of prime farmland had been removed from production due to drought conditions. Their study lacked the truth once again. The truth is that hundreds of thousands of acres were fallowed due to the mismanagement of our state’s water system. Mother Nature is no match for our state government when it comes to water supply. Our state government continues that monopoly today.

Like this new study on nitrogen oxides, the study on fallowed acres was questioned. The SWRCB held their “public comment” sessions and considered its findings. IN that study in 2016, UC Davis left the impression of a far better outlook than reality. IN this new study, UC Davis lays blame to agriculture as the sole cause of bad air. This new study will be very helpful to both the SWRCB and the legislature.

We know “nitrogen” has become the latest buzz word being used by both air and water control boards. Fish have taken a backseat. Through drought, through the wettest year on record, through stopping releases from dams, to vast releases from dams which waste millions of acre feet of water, their studies and failed management of water have done absolutely nothing to increase fish populations. What’s worse for them, through all of these events, farmers still farm.

A recent story called, “A Kingdom from Dust,” explains: One system in California works to end farming while another system in California works to defy them. Nitrogen is the new evil. It has been used as the culprit for the supposed one million people without drinking water. It has been used as the mechanism for Irrigated Regulatory Lands Programs. It has been used as smoke and mirrors on Nitrogen Management Plans, while the true purpose is to gain access to your land, test for a full panel of elements in soil and water, and to learn your water use.

Nitrogen is now allowing the bureaucracy to bypass the layer of protection you call a Coalition, and come straight to your property. But most of all, nitrogen will be simply another funding mechanism to continue that very bureaucracy. Of course, the SWRCB will hold more “public hearings.” Of course, you will have your chance to voice your opinions. But like the “hearings” on fallowed acres in 2016, your comments will go unnoticed. I know. My comments to the SWRCB about the UC Davis number of 78,000 acres being fallowed, were ignored in usual fashion. In fact, Felicia Marcus, Chair of the SWRCB, did not listen to a word I said. To her, the conversation was not debatable. And now the UC Davis study of agriculture ruining the air for all of California will also be decided without input, and used in legislation to keep the money flowing in.

While the state of California continues its assault on the Ag industry, the strong-arming continues, backroom deals continue, and consolidation becomes a way of life. What is being lost at an alarming rate is true family farming. And some of our biggest and most important trade leaders and representatives remain neutral to the obliteration. Sad and gutless.