Industry members are working to prepare for the banning of ag burning in the San Joaquin Valley by 2025, which is expected to be an expensive process. A demonstration event was held in Madera County recently which featured various types of equipment that could serve as alternatives. Air curtain burners and multiple types of chippers were put on display for industry members. Professor of Agribusiness at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Lynn Hamilton said some of the equipment was impressive, but there is still an economic concern.
“What was also eyepopping was hearing about some of the costs of adoption. Some of these pieces of equipment cost a million dollars,” Hamilton noted. “Some of the costs that we heard quoted was around $2,000 an acre to work with the chipping and grinding with these high-level machines, not to mention the huge amount of labor that will be required.”
The state has approved $180 million in funding support to help industry members adapt to the phasing out of ag burning. However, Hamilton explained that it will still be an economic challenge for producers to comply within the given timeframe. “By the middle of next year, the largest growers will already have to be in compliance. So, this isn’t something that you have a long time to work with. Some of these growers will only have less than a year at this point to figure this out,” said Hamilton.
Industry stakeholders, academics, and government officials are working cooperatively to evaluate the viability of various alternatives to ag burning. While some of the technology is there, it is a matter of making it cost-effective for the industry to implement on a large scale. A collaborative summit addressing the issue of ag burning is being planned for some time in November.
“It will be an open meeting to really delve into what some of these potential solutions will be,” Hamilton noted. “To look at some of the alternatives, to get some demonstrations of equipment, and really see how Valley growers can get ramped up to comply with this new and very onerous regulation.”