California air quality should get a boost from farmers using lower emission harvesting equipment, according to USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in California. Beginning in 2016, the agency is offering a new incentive option for almond and walnut farmers (and potentially others) to use cleaner harvesting technology.
According to Carlos Suarez, State Conservationist for NRCS in California, eligible farmers may receive an incentive of $10.52/acre for up to three years to adopt harvesters that have been certified through peer-review research to reduce particulate matter (PM) associated with harvest by at least 30 percent. The new low-emissions harvesting opportunity is funded through the NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Information on the specific models of harvesters currently covered by the program can be obtained at the NRCS Service Centers.
The new cleaner harvest technology joins a list of other on-farm air quality options for which NRCS provides technical and financial assistance. Such options include cleaner stationary and mobile engine equipment (e.g. irrigation pumps, tractors etc.) road treatment options, conservation tillage, smart sprayer technology, and incentives to chip rather than burn orchard debris.
The cleaner harvest technology was studied in part using the NRCS Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG). The grants are designed to stimulate the development and adoption of innovative conservation approaches and technologies. “In this case the CIG grants have functioned precisely as intended to bring California farmers new opportunities to protect natural resources,” said Suarez.
Those interested in conservation planning and in Farm Bill programs should contact their local NRCS field office. Applications are taken year-round at all NRCS field offices. Eligible projects will be periodically evaluated and prioritized for funding.