The NRCS National Air Quality Initiative helps agricultural producers meet air quality compliance requirements by providing technical and financial assistance for improving agricultural operations.
About the National Air Quality Initiative
The National Air Quality Initiative assists with the adoption of conservation practices through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to help improve air quality through reducing dust and carbon emissions. This Initiative sets aside funding in select states to help advance the adoption of these practices.
Examples of the National Air Quality Initiative
The key practices funded through the Initiative vary by state, depending on the natural resource concerns there. For example, in Oregon the focus is on Hood River County where smudge pots (oil-burning orchard heaters) are still used for frost protection in the numerous apple and pear orchards in the county. NRCS is providing financial assistance to eliminate use of smudge pots, and these heaters are being replaced by much lower emitting frost protection systems (typically propane heaters or wind machines). The Combustion System Improvement (number 372) conservation practice is being used for this purpose.
In Texas, the focus is on dust control, primarily in arid western counties where a mixture of practices such as conservation cover, cover crops, residue and tillage management, and prescribed grazing are being utilized to reduce wind erosion and particulate matter problems.
Download a list of NAQI approved practices for FY16 and their relative effectiveness in managing various air emissions.
Ready to make air quality practices part of your operation? Check out Apply for EQIP.
California Air Quality Programs
Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
Each fiscal year, NRCS applies financial and technical assistance through the EQIP Air Quality Initiatives. Under the Agricultural Act of 2018, the Secretary shall provide eligible producers with technical and financial opportunities to address serious air quality concerns from agricultural operations and help meet regulatory requirements.
To address the air quality concerns, financial assistance priority is targeted towards the plan land units located within air basins that encounter significant air quality resource concerns based on the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “nonattainment” designations for Ozone and Particulate Matter. These areas experience ambient air pollution levels that persistently exceed the National Ambient Air Quality Standards established by the Clean Air Act. The EPA Nonattainment Area for Criteria Pollutant offsite link image website reports the areas of the country that meet or violate air quality standards.
The EQIP Air Quality Initiatives implemented in California are the following:
The National Air Quality Initiative
The conservation treatment is the removal from service and permanent destruction of an in-use diesel-powered diesel engine that powers and self-propels an off-road mobile agricultural vehicle or equipment and replaced with a new “like” equipment powered by a diesel engine meeting current model-year or Tier 4-Final emission standards. Significant emission reduction benefits of ozone precursors and particulate matter are achieved when high-polluting engines and equipment are retired earlier than through normal turnover and replaced with new off-road mobile equipment powered by the cleanest emissions-certified diesel engines available. The conservation practice lifespan is 10 years.
The California Air Quality Initiative for Ozone and Particulate Matter
The conservation treatments under this initiative are designed to help agricultural producers support management practices that offer air quality improvements and meet regulatory requirements. These practices may also reduce greenhouse gases and promote carbon sequestration and soil health. Implementing conservation practices that reduce oxides of nitrogen (NOx), volatile organic compounds (VOC), and particulate matter (PM) emissions from agricultural sources helps achieve and maintain the health- and welfare-based air quality standards. These management practices will typically offer a one-year practice life. Please refer to the program description that lists the applicable management practices.
The California Air Quality Initiative for Agricultural Irrigation Engines
Emission reduction benefits are achieved when a higher-pollution agricultural irrigation pumping plant engine is removed from service, permanently destroyed, and repowered with a with a new electric motor or a new diesel engine certified at Tier 4-Final emissions standards. Repowering to a new Tier 4-Final diesel engine will reduce ozone precursors and particulate matter emissions. Repowering to a new electric motor will essentially eliminate air pollution emissions at the source. This fund pool does not apply towards other irrigation system improvements to the pumping plant, such as the pump, plumbing, variable frequency drives, appurtenances, and protective structures. Other funding opportunities like the WaterSMART or Water Conservation programs may be available for pumping plant improvements. The conservation practice lifespan for in-use engine repowers is 10 years.
Conservation Innovation Grants
The Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) is a voluntary program intended to stimulate the development and adoption of innovative conservation approaches and technologies while leveraging Federal investment in environmental enhancement and protection, in conjunction with agricultural production.
California Environmental Quality Incentives Program: Provides general information on the EQIP program and lists the national, landscape, California, and locally-led initiatives.
Field Office Technical Guide: Is the primary scientific reference used by NRCS in conservation activities.
NRCS Technical Service Provider (TSP) Registry: Technical Service Providers are individuals or businesses that have technical experience in conservation planning and design for a variety of conservation activities. TSPs are hired by farmers, ranchers, private businesses, nonprofit organizations, or public agencies to provide services on behalf of the NRCS.
Jesse Bahm, California Air Quality Specialist
Phone: (559) 490-5129
Ready to get started?
Contact your local service center to start your application.
How to Get Assistance
Do you farm or ranch and want to make improvements to the land that you own or lease?
Natural Resources Conservation Service offers technical and financial assistance to help farmers, ranchers and forest landowners.
To get started with NRCS, we recommend you stop by your local NRCS field office. We’ll discuss your vision for your land.
NRCS provides landowners with free technical assistance, or advice, for their land. Common technical assistance includes: resource assessment, practice design and resource monitoring. Your conservation planner will help you determine if financial assistance is right for you.
We’ll walk you through the application process. To get started on applying for financial assistance, we’ll work with you:
- To fill out an AD 1026, which ensures a conservation plan is in place before lands with highly erodible soils are farmed. It also ensures that identified wetland areas are protected.
- To meet other eligibility certifications.
Once complete, we’ll work with you on the application, or CPA 1200.
Applications for most programs are accepted on a continuous basis, but they’re considered for funding in different ranking periods. Be sure to ask your local NRCS district conservationist about the deadline for the ranking period to ensure you turn in your application in time.
As part of the application process, we’ll check to see if you are eligible. To do this, you’ll need to bring:
- An official tax ID (Social Security number or an employer ID)
- A property deed or lease agreement to show you have control of the property; and
- A farm tract number.
If you don’t have a farm tract number, you can get one from USDA’s Farm Service Agency. Typically, the local FSA office is located in the same building as the local NRCS office. You only need a farm tract number if you’re interested in financial assistance.
NRCS will take a look at the applications and rank them according to local resource concerns, the amount of conservation benefits the work will provide and the needs of applicants.
If you’re selected, you can choose whether to sign the contract for the work to be done.
Once you sign the contract, you’ll be provided standards and specifications for completing the practice or practices, and then you will have a specified amount of time to implement. Once the work is implemented and inspected, you’ll be paid the rate of compensation for the work if it meets NRCS standards and specifications.