Air Quality Mandates Putting a Squeeze on Agricultural Producers

Brian German Agri-Business, Regulation

A multitude of air quality mandates is expected to create significant challenges for farmers and ranchers over the next 15 years. The California Air Resources Board’s 2020 Mobile Source Strategy combined with Governor Gavin Newsom’s executive order on combustion engines will put significant pressure on agricultural producers. Some of the mandates actually overlap, creating an added burden to replace expensive equipment in a short amount of time.  

Air Quality Mandates

“The rules state that if we don’t replace 12,500 tractors by 2023, or get our 11 tons of reductions, then it becomes mandatory that every Tier 0, 1, and 2 tractor and harvester has to be replaced by 2030. That’s written into the SIP,” said Roger Isom, President and CEO of the Western Agricultural Processors Association. “So, we’re going to be forced to replace two tractors, back-to-back, in a span of 10 to 12 years. That makes absolutely zero sense.”

Other significant air quality mandates include a pending rule addressing pump engines. A series of mandates moved the industry away from Tier-1 and Tier-2 engines over a span of approximately ten years. Now a tentative deadline has been established as 2024 to upgrade again to either Tier-4 or electric pump engines. “So, all of these changes based on air pollution within the same four-to-five-year time period is going to wipe us out. There’s just no way to do all that in the timeframe they’re looking at,” said Isom.

Various programs have been made available to producers to help mitigate the expense of equipment replacement. The programs have been tremendously successful, repeatedly hitting the maximum amount of applications available. Isom explained the industry is more than willing to update equipment to address air quality concerns, but if mandates are going to continue to become more stringent then assistance is going to be needed. “We did it with yard trucks when we could get funding from two different programs to stack on top in order to overcome that big cost differential … the ag industry is definitely interested in looking at it,” Isom noted.

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Brian German

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Ag News Director, AgNet West