1.0 – Agriculture

The California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB), California Coastal Commission (CCC), and other state agencies have identified seven management measures to address agricultural nonpoint source (NPS) pollution of State waters. The management measures consist of a suite of plans, practices, technologies, operating methods, or other alternatives that may be used in combination to control NPS pollution. Associated with each management measure are management practices that are designed to reduce the quantities of pollutants entering receiving waters. Many of the practices listed under each management measure were approved for use by the California Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Some practices are recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) NRCS as components of Resource Management Systems (RMSs). RMSs, also known as conservation planning, are whole-farm plans that incorporate economic, social, and ecological considerations to meet the demands of crop and animal production and long-term environmental sustainability. RMSs contain pollution control criteria for soil, air, water, plant, animal, and human resources, which are described in the USDA NRCS Field Office Technical Guide. Not all components of RMSs are included in the management measures and practices – only those that are related to water quality. The fact sheet prepared for each management measure informs readers of the programs, resources, and case studies specific to California and the management measure.

The NPS pollutants typically associated with agriculture are nutrients, animal waste, sediments, and pesticides/herbicides/insecticides. Agricultural NPS pollution enters receiving waters by direct runoff to surface waters or seepage to ground water. Runoff of nutrients can result from excessive application of fertilizers and animal waste to land, and from improper storage of animal waste. Farming activities can cause excessive erosion, which results in sediment entering receiving waters. Improper use, aerial drift, and overapplication of pesticides cause harmful pollution. Improper grazing management can cause erosion, soil compaction, and excessive nutrients, all of which impair sensitive areas. Overapplication of irrigation water can cause runoff of sediments and pesticides to enter surface water or seep into ground water. Sediment, pesticides, and excess nutrients all affect aquatic habitats by causing eutrophication, sedimentation (turbidity), temperature increases, toxicity, and decreased oxygen.

A new, draft management measure (MM) was added to the 2008 edition of the NPS Encyclopedia. MM 1G - Groundwater Protection was added in order to include management practices designed to reduce or eliminate leaching of nitrogen, pesticides and other contaminants into groundwater, and to address groundwater recharge

Use the links below to find more information for each of the following management measures.

General Programs

Programs established to control NPS pollution from agriculture in California include joint efforts by local, State, and federal agencies. The SWRCB and the CCC oversee the statewide program, with assistance from the Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) for pesticide pollution and the Department of Water Resources (DWR) for irrigation water management. Local governments administer programs for general planning and local coastal plans. The California NRCS and the University of California Cooperative Extension Service provide technical and financial services for farmers. Resource Conservation Districts also provide guidance, training, and technical assistance.

  • NRCS, Conservation of Highly Erodible Lands provides disincentives to farmers and ranchers who produce annually tilled agricultural commodity crops on highly erodible cropland without adequate erosion protection. In addition, these disincentives apply to farmers and ranchers who produce annually tilled agricultural commodities or make possible the production of agricultural commodities on land classified as wetlands.

  • NRCS, Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) provides a voluntary conservation program for farmers and ranchers that promote agricultural production and environmental quality as compatible national goals. EQIP offers financial and technical help to assist eligible participants install or implement structural and management practices on eligible agricultural land.

  • Swampbuster Program requires all agricultural producers to protect the wetlands on the farms they own or operate if they want to be eligible for USDA farm program benefits. Producers will not be eligible if they plant an agricultural commodity on a converted wetland that was converted by drainage, leveling, or any other means after December 23, 1985, or convert a wetland for the purpose of or to make agricultural commodity production possible after November 28, 1990.

  • USDA, Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) provides technical and financial assistance to eligible farmers and ranchers to address soil, water, and related natural resource concerns on their lands in an environmentally beneficial and cost-effective manner.

General Technical Resources

There are several federal and State agencies and programs that can provide general information to promote sustainable agriculture and prevent NPS pollution from entering receiving waters. The agencies and programs listed below can provide assistance and information for all seven management measures. Resources specific to each of the seven agriculture management measures can be found on the corresponding fact sheet.

  • California Department of Food and Agriculture, Office of Agriculture and Environmental Stewardship identifies and prioritizes environmental conservation and protection issues related to agriculture and provides the agricultural community and the general public with accurate and timely information as well as technical support to identify, develop, and implement actions that enhance environmental conservation and protection.

  • Livestock and Poultry Environmental Stewardship Curriculum delivers a national curriculum and supporting educational tools to U.S. livestock and poultry industry advisors, who help farmers to acquire certification and achieve environmentally sustainable production systems. Producers will also benefit directly from the information and assessment tools that the curriculum provides.

  • University of California (UC) Conservation Tillage Workgroup provides up-to-date information on research and education activities related to conservation tillage production systems in California. The Conservation Tillage Workgroup currently consists of more than 80 University of California Cooperative Extension, Agricultural Experiment Station, USDA Agricultural Research Service and Natural Resource Conservation Service, private industry, farmer and student members and affiliates. The Workgroup conducts a wide range of research studies, demonstration evaluations and conferences throughout California.

  • UC Cooperative Extension Service has 50 offices in California with experienced staff to provide technical assistance to landowners on farm management and environmental protection. Local cooperative extension service offices can provide specific, local information on programs and information resources available to address many of the agriculture management measures.

  • UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SAREP) is a statewide program within UC Agriculture and Natural Resources. It was created through the grass roots efforts of organizations and individuals concerned about the environmental impacts of agriculture, the health of rural communities, and the profitability of family farming operations in California. At the request of the California legislature, the University of California established SAREP with three mandates: administer competitive grants for research on sustainable agricultural practices and systems, develop and distribute information through publications and on-farm demonstrations, and support long-term research and sustainable farming systems on UC farmlands.

  • University of Illinois, College of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Service, 60 Ways Farmers Can Protect Their Surface Water includes information on managing surface cover on agricultural lands and controlling water flow on steep slopes.

  • USDA, National Agricultural Library contains more than 1,700 electronic documents related to water and agriculture. Document categories include decision-making technology; laws, legislature, and regulations; pollution; irrigation; nutrient management; and conservation-based management. The site also features a search function to find publications using keywords.

  • USDA NRCS, CORE4 Conservation Practices Training Guide this workbook assists landowners to effectively use conservation tillage, nutrient management, pest management, and conservation buffers.

  • USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) provides information on agriculture-related policy and conservation programs, among other topics. The "Natural Resources, Environment, and Conservation" key topic includes such subject areas as irrigation and water use, manure management, soil conservation, water quality, and wetlands. Resources include online publications and data products.

  • USEPA, National Agriculture Compliance Assistance Center (the Ag Center) provides information about environmental requirements that affect the agricultural community.

  • USEPA, National Management Measures to Control Nonpoint Source Pollution from Agriculture this technical guide and reference is for state, local, and tribal managers to assist in the implementation of NPS pollution management programs. It contains information on the best available, economically achievable means of reducing pollution of surface and ground water from agriculture.

  • Wine Institute provides information on sustainable wine growing practices.

  • Yolo County Resource Conservation District, Manuals provide information on managing farms in Yolo County to reduce erosion, enhance conservation, and manage pests and weeds.

  • Yolo County Resource Conservation District, On-farm Practices provides information on water and sediment conservation, invasive weed control, and riparian enhancement for sloughs.

General Funding Resources

There are several federal and State agencies and programs that can provide general information to promote sustainable agriculture and prevent NPS pollution from entering receiving waters. The agencies and programs listed below can provide assistance and information for all seven management measures. Resources specific to each of the seven agriculture management measures can be found on the corresponding fact sheet.

  • SWRCB, Agricultural Water Quality Grant Program provides funding for projects that reduce or eliminate non-point source pollution discharge to surface waters from agricultural lands. Funding from Propositions 40 and 50 were administered through two solicitations, most recently the 2005-2006 Consolidated Grants Process. Additional funds will be made available in the future through Proposition 84.

NPS Encyclopedia Site Map