The following information is provided as a service to VCAILG members.

Important Conditional Waiver Update
 As we approach the April 14 expiration of the current Conditional Waiver, there are several recent updates that we wanted to bring to your attention.

A lot has happened over the past few weeks:

In mid-January, representatives from VCAILG met with the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board (Regional Board) staff to discuss the renewal of the Conditional Waiver and receive an update on the Regional Board's progress in that effort. At that time, we learned that the Regional Board hadn't yet begun working on a draft of the new five-year Conditional Waiver, and instead, planned to extend the current version for another year. The reason for the extension is that the Regional Board needed additional time to work with interested stakeholders, including agricultural, environmental, and community representatives, in assessing the current regulatory program, proposing modifications, and incorporating the state-wide precedential requirements related to nitrogen management and reporting, as dictated by the 2018 East San Joaquin Order. While it is certainly good news that the Regional Board is committed to meaningful engagement and stakeholder input in the renewal process, extending the requirements of the current Conditional Waiver for another year presents a challenge to Ventura County agriculture.

The current Conditional Waiver, adopted in 2016, included compliance dates for meeting various Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) water quality objectives, referred to as load allocations. TMDLs themselves are watershed-specific plans to address impaired waterbodies and attain water quality objectives specific to identified beneficial uses. To create an enforcement mechanism, TMDLs were incorporated into the Conditional Waiver and act as an additional regulatory layer above what is already required under the general Conditional Waiver requirements. More general information on TMDLs can be found on VCAILG's TMDL webpage.

Under the current Conditional Waiver requirements, any exceedance of a TMDL load allocation after the compliance date would require individual edge-of-field sampling from all growers in the Reasonability Area associated with the exceedance. The TMDL compliance dates that have come due in advance of the April 14, 2021, expiration of the current Conditional Waiver were ones that were unlikely to trigger these individual monitoring requirements, either because sampling results had so far been meeting load allocation concentrations, or because compliance was being demonstrated through alternative means.  A table showing the TMDLs that apply to each Responsibility Area, along with the associated compliance dates, can be found here.
With this in mind, VCAILG had intended to work with the Regional Board in the runup to the April 2021 expiration and discuss an alternative approach to individual sampling. Since the adoption of the current Waiver in 2016, multiple agricultural expert panels, Regional Water Boards, and the State Water Board have considered various watershed monitoring and compliance approaches, and all have either explicitly recommended against edge-of-field monitoring or recommended different approaches. VCAILG still plans to utilize this rationale and propose alternative compliance approaches in the next full Waiver term, but the Regional Board's timeline for this one-year extension is very short and doesn't provide much opportunity for substantial revision. 
After learning of the Regional Board's plan to extend the current Waiver, VCAILG met with Regional Board staff again on February 9 to outline our immediate concerns. Beyond the issues of effectiveness related to an individual sampling compliance approach, there are serious concerns about the practicability of implementing a program on this level. The cost-sharing and collaborative benefits gained through VCAILG's representative monitoring program don't exist on an individual scale, and the cost and feasibility of implementing an individual monitoring program were not evaluated in the development of the existing Conditional Waiver beck in 2016. These concerns are compounded when factoring in the substantial hardships that the agricultural community has faced as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Building and implementing an individual sampling program on a large scale is extremely challenging and costly under normal conditions, but it becomes impossible under COVID-related working restrictions and ongoing financial impacts to growers.
To address these immediate concerns, VCAILG submitted a letter on February 10 requesting a delay of any individual sampling requirements in the one-year extended Waiver due to COVID impacts affecting the agricultural community, as well as to allow the time necessary to reevaluate the program and develop effective, efficient alternatives in the next full-term Conditional Waiver. Unfortunately, VCAILG hasn't yet received a response to this requested delay.
How the process will work:

The way that a Waiver extension would work is that the Reginal Board would adopt a "new" Waiver, that would be the same as the current Waiver, but with a one-year term.  This adoption process would still go through a public release of the draft Waiver, public comment period, and formal adoption by the Regional Board. Below is the expected timeline:
  • February 18, 2021 - Release of draft one-year Conditional Waiver (Order R4-2021-0045, relevant documents linked below)
  • March 4, 2021 - 14-day public comment period ends
  • April 8, 2021 - adoption of final draft order during Regional Board meeting
  • April 2022 - adoption of the next full-term Conditional Waiver
As mentioned, VCAILG has already submitted an abbreviated comment letter upon learning of the plan to adopt a one-year extension, but will also be submitting a comprehensive comment letter upon completion of a thorough review of the draft order. There likely will also be extensive public comment from environmental organizations and local community members, particularly those who reside in the Channel Islands Harbor neighborhood and have concerns with degrading water quality in the harbor after the closure of the Mandalay Generating Station. It's more important than ever that the Regional Board hear from agricultural stakeholders as well. 

How to submit comments:

Written comments must be received no later than 5:00 pm on March 4th, 2021. Written comments can be submitted electronically to Snejana Toneva at

Oral public comment may also be provided during the April 8 Regional Board meeting.

VCAILG is available to assist any agricultural representative in developing their comments, and can provide a comment letter template and list of talking points on request. Please email Jodi Switzer at for assistance.
Contact information
If you have questions, contact: 
Jodi Switzer or Griselda Barrera (habla EspaƱol)
Phone: (805) 289-0155
Background on the Conditional Waiver
In April 2016, the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board adopted a Conditional Waiver of Waste Discharge Requirements for Irrigated Agricultural Lands, which will be in effect until April 14, 2021. Education is a cornerstone of the Ag Waiver program. All owners or operators of irrigated agricultural lands are required to attend at least 2 hours of water quality education annually. One of VCAILG's primary responsibilities is to connect our members with educational opportunities and to report member attendance to the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board. 

To better coordinate and offer a wider range of classes/trainings/workshops/events, an Education page on the Farm Bureau website lists all approved and planned education opportunities. The  Education page will be updated regularly when registrations open, new classes become available, and locations, dates and times are confirmed. Please use this one-stop tool to plan which classes best meet your and your staff's educational needs. As listed on the page, you will find that a number of regular workshops hosted by University of California Cooperative Extension and other partners will now provide VCAILG education credit. 
Although joining VCAILG is voluntary for Ventura County commercial farmers, compliance with the Conditional Waiver is mandated by the state, which can fine property owners who don't comply. If you do not join VCAILG, you may alternately choose to file as an individual and work directly with the Regional Board (contact Snejana Toneva at (213) 576-7159 or to fulfill the Conditional Waiver requirements. 
In 2006, VCAILG was established to help you and your fellow growers and/or landowners comply with this regulatory program in the most cost-effective way. Managed by Farm Bureau of Ventura County, VCAILG helps you comply with the regulations by conducting water-quality monitoring on your behalf, contracting with labs and field crews, and preparing and submitting all required documents and reports. Your compliance cost is reduced by sharing program expenses with other members. Although your annual program assessment still represents a significant business expense, we have calculated that it would cost you more than 60 times as much to comply as an individual.

If you appreciate the cost-saving service Farm Bureau provides you through its management of the VCAILG program, we encourage you to become a dues-paying member of the organization. You can learn more about our many other programs, services and activities on our website. To learn more about joining Farm Bureau, contact membership coordinator Cheri Iadevaia at (805) 289-0155 or
VCAILG Steering Committee
Edgar Terry, Chairman I Robert Crudup I Craig Held I Jesse Gomez
Paul DeBusschere I Mike Friel I Jurgen Gramckow I Gus Gunderson
John Mathews I Jason Cole I Kelle Pistone I Rob Roy I Jared Bouchard 
Craig Underwood I Mike Sullivan I John Krist

Griselda Barrera I Jodi Switzer I Ashli Desai I Amy Storm
VCAILG | (805) 289-0155 | 5156 McGrath St., Ste. 102 | Ventura | CA | 93003