CA almond harvest, old tractors focus in Air Quality meetings


The San Joaquin Air Pollution Control District has been hosting multiple workshops the past few months to determine a strategy that addresses the 2017 PM2.5 standards under the federal EPA Clean Air Act, and some of the items on the list are starting to stir up the ag community, including the almond harvest.

Almond harvest emissions occur from shaking, sweeping, and pickup activities. According to ARB Emissions Inventory, 76 percent of total almond harvest emissions come from pickup activities. One of the PM2.5 strategies includes the development of new grant program to provide local funding to deploy clean ag harvesting technology with a focus on areas impacting peak sites in the Valley. Studies show control efficiencies range from 30-70%, depending on harvester technology.

Other potential measures include:

  • Regulatory and incentive-based strategies to electrify ag irrigation pump engines in areas impacting peak Valley PM2.5 sites and where access to electricity is available.
  • Work with Valley growers to develop San Joaquin Valley Healthy Soils Initiative aimed at reducing directly emitted particulate matter while enhancing crop yield. Evaluate practices that minimize dust from wind erosion and soil disturbances while improving soil health.
  • Enhanced Conservation Management Practices (CMP) for ag operations to reduce directly emitted particulate matter.
  • Given decline of biomass industry that has served as cleaner alternative for open burning of agricultural waste, continue to identify and develop other alternatives to open burning.
  • Replace agricultural tractors/other equipment with Tier 4.

Attainment of the PM standards has to happen by 2019, but many in the industry feel the voluntary program is going to take some time. Also several of the items on the list would be extremely costly. For example, to replace the 36,568 tractors, 76 locomotives, and 18,000 off-road vehicles, it would cost $51.2 billion by 2050.

Last week the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced $19 million is available for eligible California farmers to implement conservation practices that benefit air quality, which help to reduce on-farm emissions. Through the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP), NRCS provides technical and financial assistance to eligible agricultural producers for addressing their natural resource concerns, including the air quality concerns from their farming operations.

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