EQIP - Air Quality Initiative Fact Sheet - January 2012
Environmental Quality Incentives Program
Air Quality Initiative
The Clean Air Act Criteria Pollutants - What are they?
U.S. EPA has used health-based criteria to establish National Ambient Air
Quality Standards (NAAQS). The U.S. EPA has developed NAAQS for six criteria air
pollutants, but the primary criteria pollutants of concern for agriculture are
particulate matter and ozone.
Why is it important?
Air quality concerns are measured and managed within defined geographic areas.
Areas designated as nonattainment areas, indicate concentrations of a criteria
pollutant within this locale are not in compliance with the NAAQS. Consequently,
these pollutants are subject to greater regulatory scrutiny than areas that are
in compliance with the NAAQS (i.e., attainment areas).
What can be done about it?
Ozone is not typically emitted directly from air pollutant emission sources.
Rather, ozone is formed in the atmosphere by chemical reactions. Emissions of
precursors, such as oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and Volatile Organic Compounds
(VOCs), lead to ozone formation which is regulated. Particulate Matter (PM) may
be emitted directly through dust or smoke, or formed in the atmosphere from
other pollutants, such as ammonia, NOx, VOCs, and sulfur dioxide (SO2).
Agriculture does not produce significant amounts of SO2, but reducing emissions
of directly-emitted particulate matter, NOx, ammonia, and VOCs from agricultural
sources will help mitigate agriculture’s contribution to concentrations of
particulate matter and ozone in the ambient air.
Clean Air Act – Criteria Pollutants at a Glance
|Problems/Indicators – Nonattainment area for
ozone and/or particulate matter
|• Dust emissions
• Engine emissions
• Ammonia release
• VOC emissions
|• Dust control, windbreaks
• Reduce tillage operatons
• Proper manure management
• Proper nutrient management
As NRCS moves to include air quality and atmospheric change into conservation
planning efforts with farmers and operators on private lands, we are currently
focused on two main components of air resources--Particulate Matter and Ozone
Particulate Matter (PM)
PM can be emitted directly (i.e., dust) or formed within the atmosphere by the
chemical reaction of pollutants such as sulfur oxides (SOx), nitrogen oxides
(NOx), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and ammonia. Animal operations can
influence PM in a variety of ways.
- Animal activity can produce dust emissions which can be carried by wind
or building ventilation.
- Storage, handling, and the breakdown or decomposition of feed, bedding
material, and manure can produce dust emissions as well as the emission of
VOCs, ammonia, and NOx.
- Fuel combustion, or the burning of biological material can produce fin
PM as well as NOx and VOCs.
- Manure decomposition and its application on the land can produce
emissions of VOCs, ammonia, and NOx
VOCs and NOx are also precursors to ozone, meaning they are pollutants from
which ozone is formed. Some ways that animal operations can contribute to VOC
and NOx formation are:
• All living organisms (including animals) emit VOCs naturally.
• The breakdown or decomposition of biological materials such as manure or feed
can produce VOCs.
• Incomplete fuel combustion or the burning of biological material can produce
• Fuel combustion or the burning of biological material can produce NOx.
• The breakdown or decomposition (mainly nitrifiction/denitrifiction) of
biological materials such as manure or feed can lead to NOx formation.
For more information on the Air Quality Initiative contact your local USDA
Service Center or visit the USDA NRCS website at:
Helping People Help the Land.
USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.
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EQIP - Air Quality Initiative Fact Sheet