While the overall consensus on Governor Gavin Newsom’s proposed budget was positive for agriculture, one key program for air quality saw another reduction in funding. The budget proposal calls for only $50 million in FARMER incentive funding to replace old farm equipment such as tractors and harvesters with new low emission equipment. The Funding Agricultural Replacement Measures for Emission Reductions Program, known as the FARMER program, provides financial assistance for replacing items such as tractors, all-terrain vehicles, and trucks.
“We’re under a mandate right now; it’s a voluntary mandate that says we need to replace 12,000 tractors by the end of 2023,” President and CEO of the Western Agricultural Processors Association, Roger Isom explained to AgNet West last year. “It’s voluntary in the sense that they say, ‘hey do this, here’s incentive monies to help pay for it, and if you replace those 12,000 then we’re good.’”
The mandate only applies to the San Joaquin Valley, which received a bulk of the money made available through the program. The first year that the FARMER program became available it received $135 million in funding support for the fiscal year 2018-19 before being cut to $75 million the following year. “The state, when they adopted this voluntary plan, assumed and hoped that $135 million would continue through 2023. We’re not there right now,” said Isom.
The California Air Resources Board has indicated that a minimum of $193 million per year in FARMER funding was the only way to achieve California’s air quality goals. While the budget allocation for FARMER incentive funding was raised from $25 million that was initially proposed in the Governor’s first draft of the budget, industry groups are pushing for the program to be fully restored and funding increased to the necessary level.
“If we don’t replace those 12,000 then they have a backstop which includes a mandatory replacement rule and it would require that every Tier 0, Tier 1, and Tier 2 tractor be replaced by 2030 and we don’t want to be there. We want to do it voluntarily as growers can afford it using the incentive funds,” Isom noted.