Increased Legislation Leaves Vegetable Growers Feeling Micromanaged

Rosemary Gordon

How many people enjoy being micromanaged or bogged down with numerous rules and regulations to follow? I’m going to guess not too many. Don’t get me wrong, for obvious reasons it is important to have set procedures in place to keep a business, or virtually any part of life, running smoothly.

When time-consuming procedures — that in some cases create more busy work — are added to anyone’s workload, however, stress is created. In the case of growers, additional government rules and regulations often get equated to additional costs — and additional man hours — that take away from the bottom line. They can hinder growers’ ability to produce crops and jeopardize livelihoods.

In fact, a recent survey of participants in the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Young Farmers and Ranchers program showed that burdensome government regulations, and having enough land, are tied for the top concerns of young growers today.  

The Farm Bureau survey also asked the young producers for the top three steps the government should take to ease the burdens growers face. About 20% of the respondents said that cutting government spending was the most important. Sixteen percent responded by saying that government should offer financial assistance to young farmers, and 12% indicated the first order of business should be the reformation of environmental regulations.
 
Easing The Burden

The young growers aren’t the only ones concerned about the government creating red tape. In California, the issue of regulation is a big one — and getting larger — for many growers.

Recently I was conversing with one of the authors of AVG’s “View From The West” column, Steve Koike, University of California Cooperative Extension plant pathology farm advisor, about some of the top concerns for growers in the Golden State. As to be expected, he mentioned new rules and regulations. Specifically, he said the critical issues in coastal California are the upcoming changes in regulations regarding nitrates, fertilizer use, and water runoff and quality issues — just to name a few.

In a recent column, Koike said that in addition to California being viewed as a model for developing agricultural practices, it also serves as “a model and example of the struggle for agricultural survival in the face of change.” The change he is referring to is restrictions for pre-plant fumigants.

For example, he mentioned the impending total loss of methyl bromide by 2015 and the restriction on other fumigants to control soil-borne pests. The end result, he said, is growers will have a much more difficult time producing high-value crops.

The Future Of Fumigants

As growers look to develop new programs to replace methyl bromide, EPA is adding new requirements such as new recordkeeping rules, buffer zones, residential requirements, and applicator safety actions for other important fumigant tools. (To read more on the requirements, go to www.growingproduce.com/article/24883/fumigant-management-primers.)

Obviously safety is priority Number 1 and finding new and cost-efficient production practices are critical to the future of the industry, but there has to be a point where the government simplifies its “requirements” for growers.

Just look at California. The state produces more than half the nation’s fruits and vegetables, but according to Koike, it is an “example of the struggle for agricultural survival.” That can’t go on if we expect to continue to feed the nation.

What is your take on the situation? Send me an e-mail at rogordon@meistermedia.com

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