Air Quality Discussions Include ‘No-Farm Days’

Taylor Hillman Environment

air quality
The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District produced a long list of measures that would be needed to meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) air quality standards. The list was very aggressive, including replacement of all almond harvesters with low-emitting upgrades and the possibility of “no-farm days”.

The list got a lot of people’s attention. Western Agricultural Processors Association President/CEO Roger Isom said the list wasn’t just meant to open some eyes. “It was definitely meant to get attention, but it’s very close to reality,” he said. “The EPA air quality standards are so low that in some people’s opinions are unachievable, both for ozone and particulate matter (PM) 2.5.”

On a couple of occasions, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District said eliminating all of the combustible sources in the valley would still not meet attainment. California has incentive programs to help growers upgrade from their old tractors. Over 6,500 tractors have been replaced in the last five years, but Isom said California is being told it would have to replace 20,000 more in the next two years.

Listen to Isom’s full interview

The district is getting pressure to do something about the standards. The list the district produced is what it would take to reach attainment. Isom said many of the items were far-reaching or would have very little benefit and devastate the farm economy.

Attainment of the PM standards has to happen by 2019. Isom said setting a mandate to replace all almond harvesters by that time is almost impossible. A program through the Natural Resources Conservation Service can help growers replace harvesters, and some are taking advantage of the incentives. But according to Isom, the voluntary program is going to take some time.

To emphasize the point, the district put a number on what the list of measures would cost. “If we implemented all of the measures – the 20,000 tractors, 76 locomotives and all of these trucks – the district put an estimated cost of $51 billion. Where are you going to get that?” he asked.

The list also contained “Draconian measures” that the district said needed to be in the discussion to meet the low ozone standards. Isom said those concepts were radical, but prove what it would take to even get close to the standards. He said the measures include “concepts like no-drive days, where you would literally shut down Interstate 5 or Highway 99, and no-farm days, where if the air quality is predicted to be bad or exceed the standard, you would cease all farming activities, or a no-construction day. It sounds way out there, but this has actually been proposed before, and they put it out there to show just how serious the issue is.”