Agencies applaud ag for role in reducing tractor emissions

Air quality agencies sign historic proclamation announcing agriculture has met its goal of reducing vehicle emissions by 11 tons per day through the use of cleaner tractors

John Lindt
Published December 20, 2023  • 
1:00 pm

MODESTO – Air quality agencies gathered last month to celebrate a historic milestone to reduce ag-related vehicle emissions.

On Nov. 29, representatives from the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (District), California Air Resources Board (CARB), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and United States Environmental Protection Agency Region 9 (US EPA) came together in Modesto to sign a historic proclamation lauding the successful efforts to reduce agricultural-related air quality emissions in the San Joaquin Valley.

The proclamation stated, “that through the emissions reductions achieved by the District, CARB, and NRCS grant program partnerships, the agricultural industry has met their commitment to accelerate turnover of agricultural equipment in the San Joaquin Valley to cleaner equipment and achieved over 11 tons per day of NOx emission reductions in 2024.”

Samir Sheikh, executive director/Air Pollution Control Officer for the Valley Air District, said he applauded the leadership of legislators and farmers in recognizing the public health and climate benefits provided through clean air investments.

“The San Joaquin Valley agricultural sector feeds the world and coordinated multi-agency efforts like this must continue to support farmers’ ongoing transition to sustainable and air-friendly practices,” Sheikh said.

NRCS California stated it was proud to have helped farmers in the state replace more than 6,000 old, polluting tractors since 2008, with an emission’s reduction equivalent of removing 1.5 million cars off California’s roadways.

“But we didn’t do this alone – a robust partnership of agriculture and governmental partners have teamed with us for more than a decade working together to make our air cleaner and healthier for Central Valley communities,” NRCS California State Conservationist Carlos Suarez said.

In order to meet the commitment, the agencies accelerated the turnover of older agricultural equipment to lower-emitting equipment through significant funding under the federal Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA), the Targeted Airshed Grant (TAG) funding programs, and the state Funding Agricultural Replacement Measures for Emission Reductions (FARMER) Program. CARB, the District and NRCS also partnered with the Valley agricultural industry for decades through the Carl Moyer Memorial Air Quality Standards Attainment Program (Carl Moyer Program), and the NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).

Through all incentive programs, the agricultural industry turned over and destroyed more than 12,800 pieces of aging farm equipment in the San Joaquin Valley, of which over 7,300 were the oldest Tier 0 agricultural equipment with no emissions controls.

 “The agricultural sector in the San Joaquin Valley is an economic powerhouse for the state. Moving towards the cleanest available technology in this sector continues to be critical to improving the air in the Valley,” CARB Chair Liane Randolph said. “We all have a role to play in building a healthier, more sustainable California, and today’s event shows what we can achieve when we work together.”

While the San Joaquin Valley has some of the most challenging fine particulate matter and ozone air quality issues in the nation, the Valley has a long history of collaboration with Valley agricultural stakeholders, partner agencies, state and federal legislators, and the California Governor. The total public (District, CARB, NRCS, and U.S. EPA) and private investment in agricultural equipment in the San Joaquin Valley since 2015 has equated to over $1.6 billion, more than half of which was spent by farmers and others in the agricultural industry.

“We commend our state and local partners and the agricultural community for their years of collective efforts to improve the air our Valley communities breathe, and pledge to continue this partnership,” said Martha Guzman, Regional Administrator for EPA’s Region 9. “Emissions from agricultural equipment are the largest source of nitrogen oxide in the Valley and will require continued innovation and strategies for reducing air pollution – including via the $10 million grant for a low-dust nut harvester that we are announcing today.”

The San Joaquin Valley, through interagency partnerships with the agricultural sector, has been forward-looking and innovative through its continued efforts to use the best practices possible to reduce agricultural emissions through air quality management strategies. These strategies include Conservation Management Practices, turnover of agricultural pumps including electrification of thousands of pump engines, replacement of conventional harvesting equipment with low-dust nut harvesters, phase-out of agricultural open burning, deployment of thousands of zero-emission agricultural utility terrain vehicles, and the turnover of thousands of tractors with the cleanest technologies available.

The Valley Air District covers eight counties including San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced, Madera, Fresno, Kings, Tulare and San Joaquin Valley air basin portions of Kern. For additional information about the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, visit www.valleyair.org or call 559-230-6000.

John Lindt
John Lindt is the publisher of Sierra2theSea.net, an online newspaper covering California’s Central Valley and Central Coast.