Low-dust nut harvester (San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District)
Low-dust nut harvester (San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District)

Submitted by the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District

Air quality challenges in the San Joaquin Valley are unmatched by any other region in the nation. Due to its unique geography, topography, and meteorology, the responsibility faced by the San Joaquin Valley to meet federal health-based air quality standards is a daunting one.

Since 1992, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District has implemented a variety of the most ambitious air pollution control strategies in the nation. A wide-range of measures, including strict regulations, public education and outreach, and robust incentive programs to deploy clean-air technologies have resulted in significant reductions in particulate matter emissions and ground-level ozone.

Despite many air quality improvements, disadvantaged communities in the San Joaquin Valley still suffer the burden of disproportionate levels of air pollution when compared to other communities throughout the state.

In 2017, the California legislature passed Assembly Bill (AB) 617, a statewide effort to monitor and reduce air pollution and improve public health in disadvantaged communities through new community-focused and community-driven actions. In 2018, the City of Shafter was selected as one of ten communities in California most in need of assistance to improve health and air quality in the first year of AB 617 implementation. Subsequently, a community steering committee (CSC) was formed in Shafter and comprised of community residents, businesses, environmental advocates and local government. The CSC has worked closely with the District and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to determine where resources for air quality improvement are needed most and develop a corresponding Community Emissions Reduction Program (CERP) that outlines measures for increased incentives, enforcement and public outreach to achieve emissions reductions in Shafter.

Among these measures are increased incentive dollars for agricultural operators in and near the city to replace higher-polluting equipment with new, cleaner technology, further reducing emissions from combustion, open burning, and other activities that generate particulate matter in the form of dust and smoke.

The District invites San Joaquin Valley farmers, especially those in and near the city of Shafter, to apply for the following programs:

Tractor Replacement Program

Provides incentive funds for the replacement of in-use, off-road mobile equipment, engaged in agricultural operations with Tier 0, 1 & 2 engines, for new, cleaner equipment with Tier 4 engines. Guidelines and application materials are available here: http://valleyair.org/grants/tractorreplacement.htm.

Low-Dust Nut Harvester Replacement Program

The harvesting of almonds and walnuts can create large dust plumes, which impact neighboring residents. The District has been working closely with the agricultural community to evaluate new low-dust technology nut harvesters.

Assistance is now available for the replacement of older, conventional harvesters with new, low-dust technology that reduces emissions by at least 40% from previous harvesters. Guidelines and application materials are available here: http://valleyair.org/grants/low-dust-nut-harvester.htm.

Alternative to Open Ag Burning Incentive Program

Provides as much as $600 per acre for a maximum of $60,000, to chip or shred agricultural material and apply it back onto the land or into the soil. The practice of applying the material back into the soil as an amendment improves soil quality and fertility. Guidelines and application materials are available here: http://valleyair.org/grants/alt-ag-burning.htm.

Ag Pump Replacement Program

Provides incentives for engine replacement or repower of agricultural irrigation pumps with as much as 85 percent of the replacement cost when replacing diesel or natural gas pumps with cleaner technology, such as new, cleaner diesel engines or electric motors. Guidelines and application materials are available at http://valleyair.org/grants/agpump.htm. 

For further information on these and other grants available from the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, visit www.valleyair.org/grants, or call 559-230-5800.