Water Boards a Valuable Resource for Co-management

by Johnny Gonzales

As a result of the leafy green E. coli contamination incident back in 2006, the State and Regional Water Boards (here-in-after Water Boards) participated in the development of the California Leafy Green Marketing Agreement (LGMA) that developed food safety best management practice metrics. 

The Water Boards support the effort that the Farm Food Safety Conservation Network (FFSCN) is doing in collaborating with the agricultural community and other agricultural related agencies/entities/academia to exchange information on co-management of food safety and environmental protection.  The Water Boards position is that food safety practices and the protection of water quality should not be in conflict and applauds the collaborative approach by all agricultural stakeholders (e.g. growers, distributers, buyers, consumers, researchers, agencies, academia, etc.) to address this very important co-management issue.

The State Water Board has a vested interest in making sure that current and future food safety practices are compatible water quality protection programs.  Impacted State Water Board programs include the Irrigated Lands Program, Nonpoint Source, Total Maximum Daily Load, and grants and loans programs. These efforts can complement efforts to improve food safety and protect the beneficial uses of the waters of the state.   

For example, to evaluate the water quality and environmental impacts of food safety on-field practices, the Irrigated Lands Program staff actively participates in the FFSCN to keep informed of recent scientific research regarding food safety practices; and to coordinate the state’s position on how to manage food safety using scientifically based on-field practices without impairing water quality or affecting wildlife.  These on-field practices need to be scientifically based and clearly defined to avoid ambiguity and the potential for subjective interpretation by growers, handlers, auditors, buyers and consumers.  A key element of the ILRP is to provide assistance to enrolled growers in addressing water quality issues to assure management plans and practices align with the Healthy Soils, Food Safety, Safe Drinking Water, and other agricultural related initiatives.

The task ahead to improve food safety and the environment are not mutually exclusive.  Complementary efforts can be instituted that can improve water quality and the environment to grow safe fresh products consumed across the US.

 For more information on State Water Board Programs:

by Johnny Gonzales