(Photo: California Air Resources Board)

By Katie Little, Senior Policy Advocate, California Farm Bureau 

Reprinted with permission from the California Farm Bureau Federation 

California farmers and ranchers are no strangers to our continuing onslaught of state regulations. Now, as the New Year approaches, several new mandates that will take effect come from one agency alone: the California Air Resources Board. 

CARB has been particularly busy enacting transportation policies called for by the Legislature and Gov. Gavin Newsom. The mandates affecting agriculture in 2024 stem from the governor’s September 2020 executive order, which recognized impacts of climate change and the importance of transitioning to zero-emission vehicles. 

Newsom directed the state to reach 100% sales rate for zero-emission passenger cars and trucks by 2035 and 100% sales of medium and heavy-duty vehicles by 2045. Now a trio of regulations aim to achieve those outcomes. 

The Advanced Clean Fleet Regulation, or ACF, requires the phaseout of internal combustion engines in medium and heavy-duty trucks. This affects medium and heavy-duty vehicles, including tractors that weigh more than 8,500 pounds. 

The ACF rules apply to fleets performing drayage operations, those owned by state, local and federal agencies, and high-priority fleets from companies that have $50 million or more in gross annual revenues, or 50 or more vehicles. 

The California Farm Bureau has raised concerns about this regulation, which requires that the vehicle fleets start phasing in zero-emission vehicles, or ZEVS, next year. The majority of our farmers and ranchers live in remote, rural communities that have limited access to vehicle charging stations needed to support this transition. 

The time required to charge these vehicles—and the time needed to travel to charging facilities—could jeopardize timely delivery of farm products, adding to risks of food insecurity. There are also supply challenges, including shortages of ZEVS for purchase and the fact that many agricultural operations require specialty equipment or vehicles for which there is no zero-emission option. 

There are exemptions from the rules for infrastructure and supply delays, although applying for waivers requires a lengthy process. 

A second regulation approved by the air resources board—Clean Truck Check—seeks to ensure that heavy-duty vehicles operating in California are well-maintained and repaired quickly when needed to reduce emissions. 

The rule provides a level playing field for the businesses that operate these vehicles as it applies to heavy-duty vehicles both registered in California and out of the state. The regulation covers nearly all non-gasoline vehicles weighing over 14,000 pounds. 

As of Oct. 1, those subject to the rule are required to enter their vehicles in the air board’s Clean Truck Check database and pay an initial annual compliance fee of $30 per vehicle by Dec. 31. Starting Jan. 1, all trucks driving in California will need proof of compliance to continue operating in the state. 

Starting July 1, Clean Truck Check will require heavy-duty vehicle owners to conduct periodic emissions testing, similar to California’s smog check program for cars. Periodic testing initially will be required twice yearly for nearly all vehicles in the program. Agricultural vehicles and California-registered motor homes are required to test once annually. 

Lastly, new Small Off-Road Engines regulations, or SORE, are stirring some concerns in agriculture. The rules primarily apply to lawn and garden equipment with rated power at or below 25 horsepower. 

Engines that use diesel fuel and engine that are used in stationary equipment, including standby generators, are not subject to SORE regulations. Additionally, federal law preempts states from regulating new engines that are used in construction or farm equipment with less than 175 horsepower. 

But the SORE regulation directly impacts machine manufacturers. If they wish to sell products within California, they must produce zero-emission engines beginning Jan. 1. 

Yet, even beyond 2024, consumers will be able to use any pre-2024 lawnmower, landscaping equipment or SORE-regulated equipment until the end of its useful life. Equipment owners can continue to repair these engines as long as parts and equipment are available. The SORE rules will apply only to new equipment being produced after Jan. 1. 

Older model-year equipment will be allowed to be sold in stores until it is gone, then will be replaced by zero-emission equipment. Supplies of 2022 or 2023 engines may last well into 2024, depending on inventory and manufacturer demand for the products. 

The purchase of gas or diesel burning equipment manufactured out of state for California use is prohibited. Some out-of-state retailers may require identification to guard against selling noncompliant equipment into California. 

The California Farm Bureau continues to express concerns to the air resources board about these regulations and the obstacles they will create within our food supply chain. 

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