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Green syndicalist response to CA water board

The usually deaf (hard of hearing) official characters of the CA water board are directly responsible for the increased militarization of labor and ecoactivists in the pesticide soaked central valley..
includes article with comment from;
 link to www.indybay.org

Water Board Extends Ag Waivers For Five Years

by Dan Bacher

Saturday Jun 24th, 2006 12:53 PM

Every reporter that went to the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board seemed to have a different idea of what actually happened. Here's my take on the meeting - the board approved the agricultural waivers, although it included a bit more accountability in the waiver process. However, the Delta food chain is in crisis, farmworkers living in areas with contaminated water are getting sick and dying of cancer, the Central Valley rivers are less healthy than they were three years ago, and the members of the Board just don't seem to care!
Water Board Extends Ag Waivers For Five Years

by Dan Bacher

The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board voted on June 22 to extend waivers for discharges from irrigated farm land for five years, in spite of pleas from a coalition of anglers, farmworkers and environmental justice advocates to subject agribusiness to the same general discharge permit that others have to abide by.

That waiver adopted in July 2003 provided for the establishment of voluntary coalitions of farmers to tackle agricultural pollution. Unlike industry, businesses and municipalities, agricultural discharges have been unregulated and not subject to regulation by general waste discharge permits. This has allowed agribusiness to pollute Central Valley waterways with a toxic brew of pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers and sediment.

Fishing, farmworker and environmental groups were encouraged somewhat that the board built more accountability into the waiver process by requiring the submission of an electronic list of the members of the coalitions. The room, with a capacity for 205, was completely filled, and people had to go into an adjoining room to watch the video of the meeting.

In addition, the Board Executive Officer, at her discretion, may ask for maps delineating the participants and non-participants in the coalitions. The time line for joining up with a coalition is now December 31 - and after that the individual dischargers would be subject to individual permits.

Bill Jennings, executive director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, felt the requiring of discharger lists was a good first step, but was very concerned about the lack of enforcement teeth and accountability in the waiver.

"I'm glad that the board finally required identification of people in the coalitions," said Jennings. "However, the waiver doesn't require a management plan and go far enough. The big question is how are the water standards going to be addressed when pollution problems are found."

Likewise, Carrie McNeill, the Deltakeeper, felt that requiring membership lists of the farmers involved in the coalitions was "great." However, she emphasized that the waiver process isn't the same as a genuine regulatory process.

"They are saying they are going to take baby steps when we have a major ecosystem crisis, with a food chain collapse in the Delta while the groundwater is not fit to drink in many Central Valley communities," said Carrie McNeill, the Delta keepers.

McNeill, Jennings, Susana de Anda of Asociacíon de Gente Unida por el Agua,
Laurel Firestone of the Center for Race, Poverty and the Environment, Mindy McIntire of the Planning and Conservation League and many others described the waiver program as a big failure, emphasized that virtually no improvements had been made since the waiver program had gone into effect.

In fact, in the past three years, the situation in the Central Valley and Delta has become increasingly worse, including the documentation by federal and state scientists of a food chain crash on the Delta, the listing of the green sturgeon under the Endangered Species Act, and increasing reports of groundwater and wells polluted by pesticides and fertilizers.

On the other hand, some farmers at the hearing, though happy that the Board approved a waiver rather than a general waste discharge, were upset that the board had decided to introduced a limited amount of accountability into the waiver program by requiring the coalitions supposedly monitoring and dealing with agricultural pollution to maintain membership lists.

The Board's staff and Central Valley farmers tried to portray the waiver program to date as some sort of success, although state agencies have documented increases - rather than decreases - in the use of toxic chemicals and their presence in Valley waterways. For example. California Department of Pesticide Regulation found pesticides present in 96 percent of the water sites tested, while farm pollutants have been found in drinking supplies for 16.5 million Californians in 46 counties.

"The most appropriate, effective means for regulating irrigated land impacts on surface and groundwater is a general order of waste discharge requirements like all other industries," was the recommendation of the Bay Keeper, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance and California Coastkeeper Alliance.

The turnout by fishing, farm worker and environmental groups was very impressive. Before the meeting, a coalition of over 130 organizations submitted a strongly worded letter to the board calling on them to submit agriculture to general waste discharge permits. Also, around 80 people holding signs held a rally outside of the meeting room before they went in to testify about the impact of toxics on fish and other aquatic life, ground water and the health of rural communities.

Dozens of members of farmworkers and family members took the day off to testify to the dramatic impact that polluted runoff from pesticides and fertilizers has had on drinking water supplies and the health of thousands of rural Californians. Fertilizers have leached into groundwater, causing high levels of nitrate contamination in the drinking water supply over much of the Central Valley.

"Our communities are the ones who are paying the costs of this waiver," said Ruth Martinez, a Ducor Water Board representative and member of Asociacíon de Gente Unida por el Agua (AGUA), a grassroots coalition of communities who traveled over 600 miles to protest the agricultural waiver.

"We pay while they poison us," she said as she held up a bottle of brown, disgusting looking groundwater from the Ducor water supply. "We pay for drinking water that has been poisoned by these agricultural companies. Then, we pay even more money for bottled water because we can't drink our tap water. And then we have to live with the rashes, the hair loss and the threat to our health."

Other farmworkers testified to the alarming rate of cancer in many rural communities. Many communities, such McFarland in the San Joaquin Valley, are considered "cancer clusters" because of the abnormal rate of cancer and birth defects caused by agricultural contamination of groundwater supplies.

Fishing groups testified to the impact that agricultural pollution was having on them. "Dirty, unclean water from agricultural waste water is killing people, fish and animals," said Bob Strickland, president of United Anglers of California. "With the decimation of the food chain, fish species in the Delta are crashing and pollution has been shown to be one of the major causes. Please help us get this water cleaned up by not approving the waivers for another five years. Every farmer should take responsibility to help protect our resources."

David Nesmith of the Environmental Water Caucus summed up his feelings about the meeting:

"The Board seems bent on ignoring California clean water requirements when agriculture is the major polluter of the Delta and pollution is one of the three main causes of the Delta food chain decline," he said. "The way the board approaches this problem denies the reality of the people being hurt by the pollution. Being in the hearing room was an Orwellian and Kafkaesque experience; the Board says they are enforcing the law when breaking it and says they're improving water quality when they're making it worse."

The California Highway Patrol was there in force with five officers, adding to the Orwellian, Kafkaesque atmosphere of the hearing. One officer claimed that the rally outside the board hearing office was illegal because the environmental justice advocates had no permit and the signs were of an "illegal size." Nonetheless, clean water advocates weren't intimidated and held a brief rally, proudly displaying their signs in opposition to the waiver.

For more information, contact:
Carrie McNeil, Deltakeeper Ch. Of Baykeeper, 916-952-2185
Bill Jennings, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, 209-938-9053
Susana de Anda, Asociacíon de Gente Unida por el Agua, 661-586-2611
Laurel Firestone, Center for Race, Poverty and the Environment, 661-586-2622
David Nesmith, California Environmental Water Caucus, 510-693-4979
Mindy McIntire, Planning and Conservation League, 916-541-8825

Added Comments


Pollution reduction requires change in farming methods

by crop diversity, permaculture, green syndicalism

Saturday Jun 24th, 2006 3:16 PM

This is a letter i sent to the water board Thursday. Besides the obvious statement that i am oppossed to a continuation of the pollution waiver, there are other ideas that are not being considered that would reduce and/or eliminate the use of petrochemical pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers and also improve riparian habitat around floodplains, decrease water use in irrigation and other common problems from industrial corporate agriculture. Returning to smaller permaculture farms with crop diversity, the Cuban model of urban organic gardening and wilderness symbiosis, crop diversity etc.. are some ideas that could help change the pattern of pollution and resulting abuses to humans, ecosystems, aquifers, etc..


Am oppossed to the waiver that enables agriculture corporations to continue polluting of California's watersheds. Do not allow any further pollution of California's watersheds by agriculture corporations. The job of the CA water board is to monitor and regulate the discharge water of the agriculture corporations into the public's watersheds. There are many safer non-toxic alternatives available to regional agriculture and would encourage the smaller organic farmers be given a fair chance against the larger agriculture corporations that use excess amounts of petrochemical pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers in their plantation agriculture. Would encourage the CA water board to advise farmers in using IPM methods that are safer and more ecologically sound than the conventional
petrochemically derived pesticides, fertlizers, etc.

Integrated pest management (IPM) may be a giant step for many farmers with tight budgets, so instead of investing in the future by using various IPM methods farmers are economically coerced into dependency on petrochemical pesticides/fertilizers. We need to encourage subsidizing IPM methods including beneficial predatory insects (ex., dragonflies, ladybugs), crop diversity and symbiosis (maize, beans and squash) and other methods yet unexplored. We need more research into sustainable organic agriculture methods, drought tolerant food crops like tepary beans, nopales, etc. and how to help farmers transition to permaculture methods in harmony with nature. Currently research is dominated by the flawed science of genetic engineering promoted by biotech corporations.

We also need to recognize the benefits of seasonal flooding on floodplain habitat. Farmers could be encouraged to allow seasonal flooding in rainy season that could deposit silt and sediment loads from the rivers rich with minerals on farmland if it is allowed to be dormant for a few years. This would require that farmers are not coerced into maximum production of yields in order to remain in business. Dormant fields may also need one year's time to grow natural vegetation that can trap the sediments during flood season. Following the second year of flooding the field can once again be reclaimed for farming, this time revealing a newly added layer of topsoil from last years river sediment deposition.

Thank you for your time. No more pollution waivers to agriculture


voting address

There's of course more that needs to be said about the potentials offered in the Sacto/San Joaquin Valley with ecology, permaculture, human villages, etc.. but of course the water board isn't willing to read through an idealist's suggestions. Maybe in the next lifetime they'll actually listen to what people are saying?

Either way there's other sources that are saying we need to be compatible with ecology, though the economists usually shout them down in public forums as "pie in the sky" hippie idealists. Urban organic farming worked pretty well for the residents of Havana, Cuba and they're not exactly hippies. Prior to the arrival of Cristobal Colon the indigenous peoples of north, meso and south america also had ecologically sustainable agriculture systems without petrochemical pesticide inputs, concrete dams, etc. while feeding a considerably large human population..

Again the south central community garden of LA is one of the greatest examples here in the states of community supported agriculture and that model is currently under attack by the LA developers who believe that a warehouse is more desireable (loco, madness, insanity, etc..) than the green oasis of the campesino farm. Just imagine if every neighborhood had such a farm, the taxpayer and water subsidized plantation agriculture corporations would lose some considerable profit if more community farms existed..

Farmworkers could actually choose between a homesharing community farm where workers are safe from pesticide exposures, cruel bosses and mandatory hours OR the standard for-profit plantation agriculture corporation where farmworkers toil endlessly for low pay in the hot sun enveloped in a cloud of toxic pestice/herbicide haze and are charged for rent (debt coersion) and food thus entering into debt slavery for the corporation..

That being said people can avoid the empty promises of state officials on the water board whose ears are filled with pesticide soaked cotton balls and instead help organize for land reform and farmworkers beyond the ineffectual UFW..

Here's a suggestion offered by the IWW to begin organizing farmworkers in solidarity with ecoactivists under the banner of green syndicalism, combining both labor and ecology movements to throw off the control of the corporate agriculture establishment..

"This approach has led to the development of syndicalist practice informed by radical ecology a "green syndicalism." Green syndicalists have understood that labor struggles and ecological struggles are not separate (See Bari, 2001; Purchase, 1994; 1997a; 1997b). Within green syndicalism this assumption of connectedness between historical radical movements, including labor and ecology, has much significance. These green syndicalist perspectives are important in reminding (or informing) ecology activists and workers alike that there are radical working class histories in addition to the histories of compromise which so preoccupy Bookchin's thinking. "Historically, it was the IWW who broke the stranglehold of the timber barons on the loggers and millworkers in the nineteen teens" (Bari, 1994: 18). It is precisely this stranglehold which environmentalists are trying to break today. "Now the companies are back in total control, only this time they're taking down not only the workers but the Earth as well. This, to me, is what the IWW-Earth First! link is really about (Bari, 1994: 18). In her work, Bari forged real connections between the suffering of timber workers with ecological destruction today. The history of workers' struggles becomes part of the history of ecology."

more on green syndicalism @;

To address the green syndicalist issues of the central valley am also proposing regional organizing of the IWW farmworkers and also of both Sacramento Valley Earth First! and San Joaquin Valley Earth First! with seasonal gatherings at the halfway point of the delta where los rios combine their agua..

For now central valley imc is a great place to begin organizing..

Any suggestions??