More and more California farmers are feeling the added pinch of groundwater regulations as local agencies implement plans that include pumping limits and new fees to balance long-term groundwater resources as required by the state. Regulations and fees by local agencies as part of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, or SGMA, affect farmers more directly this year, including farmers in Madera County.
Madera County farmer Jay Mahil said groundwater sustainability agency fees that are part of his county property tax bill are “coming at a time when growers are receiving all-time low returns on commodity prices, and farm input costs have doubled.”
“People have already suffered substantial losses due to not being able to farm their ground,” said Mahil, who grows nut crops, wine grapes, and citrus fruit. “Growers are just not financially solvent, and we’re having to write these checks for something that’s not even due yet.”
Subbasins in Madera County, including the Madera subbasin, the Delta-Mendota subbasin, and the Chowchilla subbasin, are in critical overdraft. To fund groundwater work, voters approved fees in June under a rate-setting process set forth in Proposition 218.