California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill (AB 2174) the last week of August that would allow technical assistance projects to be eligible as a category of funding under the Fertilizer Research and Education Program (FREP) of the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

FREP was established 20 years ago to address nitrate contamination from agricultural sources in groundwater. FREP is funded by an assessment on fertilizers. The program offers grants for research, education and now technical assistance projects. The idea is to promote more efficient use of fertilizer so as not to cause groundwater contamination.

Earlier this year, a report [ ] was released indicating that agriculture was responsible for more than 95 percent of the nitrate groundwater contamination in the Tulare Lake Basin and Salinas Valley.

The new funding will help translate research findings into real-world assistance for growers so they can better address nutrient management issues. The approval of this bill will allow the University of California Cooperative Extension, local Resource Conservation Districts, nonprofits and other to apply for funding for projects that help growers develop nutrient management plans. In light of the fact that so many Extension programs have been losing funding and manpower, this bill comes at a critical time.