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Replacing Irrigation Engines and Improving Air Quality in Suffolk County 

Web image: Photo of an engine that replaces a less efficient engines used for pumping irrigation water. Click image for full screen view

Emission reduction is achieved through electronic
engine controls, similar to what is required
for new on-road engines

Full screen view

The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) Air Quality Initiative has been a great success in Suffolk County New York. Its purpose is to plan and install conservation practices that will preserve or improve air quality on farmland in eligible counties in New York State. Suffolk County is among the eligible counties due to the fact that it is one of ten counties in a non-attainment zone for ozone and particulates. With the occurrence of more and more air quality alert days this program is welcomed here in Suffolk.

Since beginning in 2011, the Air Quality Initiative has been widely popular with local farmers. It has served as an introduction for many new farmers to the services of NRCS the Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), opening up new avenues of conservation. When the Initiative began only one practice was offered - Combustion System Improvement. Under this practice stationary diesel engines used to power irrigation pumps are replaced with new clean burning engines that meet the current Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Tier Three and Tier Four requirements. Participation in the program requires that the old engine, which is being replaced, is rendered inoperable and recycled - much like the “cash for clunkers” program. Each farm is allowed up to three engines.

In 2011, 19 contracts were awarded for a total of 37 engine replacements. To date, 36 of these engines have been installed. This year, additional practices were added to the Air Quality Initiative, but Combustion System Improvement remained the most popular. In 2012, 40 contracts were successfully approved, totaling almost one million dollars. Depending on their pump requirements, farmers are reimbursed in three different size engine categories: less than 75 horsepower (hp), 75 to 99 horsepower and engines greater than 100 horsepower. Due to the large amount of hours of irrigation that occur locally, the replacement of these engines is likely to make a measurable improvement in air quality.

So what exactly do the EPA Tier Standards mean for off-road diesel engines? A Tier 0 engine is basically an unimproved, unregulated mechanical engine with no emission controls. Tiers 1 through 4 engines have progressively advanced technology and emission controls with Tier 4 being the most advanced - near zero emissions. Emission reduction is achieved through electronic engine controls, higher pressure fuel injection system, advanced turbo charging and exhaust gas after treatment; similar to what is required for new on-road engines. After 2011 manufacturers are only allowed to produce Tier 4 engines but will be permitted to sell off existing inventory of Tier 3 engines. While there is no mandatory requirement that old existing diesel engines be upgraded to Tier 4 standards, many local farmers are taking their own initiative to be environmentally conscious and pro-active with a little financial assistance from the USDA-NRCS!

With offices in nearly every county in the United States, NRCS works with landowners and communities to improve our soil, water, air, plants, wildlife, and energy use. The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) is a voluntary program that provides financial and technical assistance to farmers to help plan and implement conservation practices to protect the environment while helping producers meet Federal, State, Tribal and local environmental regulations. If you are interested in how you can protect natural resources on your farm or forestland, please contact your local NRCS office.

Media Contact: Public Affairs 315-477-6524