USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is making funds available to help improve and maintain air quality within designated areas of California, including Stanislaus County. Funding for the National Air Quality Initiative is available through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program; and those wishing to participate are encouraged to get their applications in soon.
The NAQI provides financial assistance to implement conservation practices that address air resource issues for designated locations throughout the nation. Agricultural atmospheric related concerns include greenhouse gas emissions, ozone precursors, volatile organic compounds, airborne particulate matter, and some odor-related volatile compounds.
“We’ve had great success with this initiative in some of the high priority areas of the state,” said Assistant State Conservationist Alan Forkey. “We entered into 606 contracts with farmers who are voluntarily undertaking this work—the Agency invested $19 million and the farmers matched that—for a total of $38 million in 2015 alone. This new funding offers an opportunity for producers who have not yet participated.”
According to the American Lung Association, six of the top 10 cities with the most persistent air pollution in the country in 2013 come from within the Central Valley, with Merced and Bakersfield tying for first. Problems such as high levels of ozone and particulate pollution that riddle California cities are exactly what this funding is hoping to counteract.
Typical conservation treatments for this initiative include replacing old, high-polluting off-road mobile farm equipment with newer, cleaner models and transitioning to cleaner irrigation pump engines and electric motors.
For fiscal year 2016, interested owners or operators of land managed for agricultural production in the following counties may be eligible for the National Air Quality Initiative: Alameda, Butte, Calaveras, Contra Costa, El Dorado, Fresno, Imperial, Inyo, Kern, Kings, Los Angeles, Madera, Marin, Mariposa, Merced, Mono, Napa, Nevada, Placer, Riverside, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Joaquin, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, Sonoma, Stanislaus, Sutter, Tulare, Ventura, Yolo, and Yuba.
Applicant s looking to receive funding for this year must have their applications ready by July 29. This includes submitting the application form, meeting program eligibility requirements, approving their ‘EQIP schedule of operations’ and developing a conservation plan, which can vary depending on the complexity of the farming operation.
For more information on the program go online to the NRCS website at nrcs.usda.gov or contact your local USDA Service Center.