Sept. 29, 2017 – -Several proposed control measures that would affect almond production were discussed at Tuesday’s public workshop hosted by the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District on the 2017 PM2.5 Attainment Strategy. Following rejection of an earlier District plan by the California Air Resources Board, the Valley Air District is expressly “leaving no stone unturned.” Proposed strategies include more stringent limits on agricultural burning, “backstop” control measures that would require conversion to higher-tier motors in ag equipment should voluntary measures fail to deliver necessary reductions, and enhanced Conservation Management Practices to reduce fugitive dust from cropland tilling and fallow lands.
Agriculture has significantly reduced its air quality impacts through voluntary, incentive based programs funded by the Valley Air District and USDA-NRCS. In 2016 the Almond Alliance, with technical assistance from the Almond Board, worked with NRCS to developed and incentive program under EQIP for almond harvest equipment where growers receive a per acre incentive over a three-year period for using lower emitting harvesters.
During Tuesday evening’s workshop reducing harvest dust through a newly developed incentive program for low-dust harvesters was also discussed as a potential Community-Level Targeted Strategy. In coordination with the SJVAPCD, the Almond Board is currently funding experiments with all four harvest equipment manufacturers to document the amount of PM2.5 that is reduced using new equipment compared to conventional harvest equipment. This research will be used to develop an additional incentive program for harvesters. The Almond Alliance, along with other groups, worked during the last legislative session to get $250 million for ag from California’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, a portion of which can be used for a newly developed almond harvester incentive program.
The Almond Board is also funding research into alternatives to ag burning, including whole orchard recycling. This and other potential projects will be further explored at a Biomass Summit being organized by the District Nov. 7-8 Details can be found at http://www.valleyair.org/CVsummit/
The Almond Alliance, working with the Almond Board under our memorandum of agreement, will continue to engage on behalf of the almond industry on these issues.