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National Air Quality Initiative

Overview

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.

In Fiscal Year 2021 (FY2021), the NAQI funding pool is designed to help agricultural producers meet air quality compliance requirements and offer opportunities to support practices that reduce oxides of nitrogen (NOx), volatile organic compounds (VOC), and particulate matter (PM) emissions from agricultural sources.  Reducing emissions helps achieve and maintain the health- and welfare-based National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) in California.  

Financial assistance priority is targeted toward counties identified as having significant air quality resource concerns based on the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “nonattainment” designations for the applicable 8-hour Ozone NAAQS, the 24-hour PM10 or PM2.5 NAAQS and/or the annual PM2.5 NAAQS; or, predesignated as “Attainment (Maintenance Area)” for PM10 or PM2.5.  These areas experience air pollution levels that persistently exceed the NAAQS established through the Clean Air Act.  

The applicable nonattainment designation maps from EPA Region 9 are included with this program description. 

The following information supports the NAQI nonattainment area priorities:

The NAQI ranking pool priority is supported by the California NRCS 2020-25 Five-Year Strategic Plan for improving air quality associated with agricultural operations by addressing ozone and particulate matter in nonattainment areas and to maximize emissions reductions through NRCS air quality projects. 

The conservation treatment for the National Air Quality Initiative is to reduce NOx, VOC (ROG-reactive organic gases) and PM emissions through the removal from service and permanent destruction of:

  • A fully functional in-use off-road mobile agricultural equipment rated at 25 or more brake-horsepower (bhp) and powered and self-propelled by an uncontrolled (Tier 0) or a Tier 1 or Tier 2 diesel-fueled emissions-certified nonroad compression-ignition engine; and,
  • Replace with a new “like” off-road mobile agricultural equipment rated at 25 or more bhp (not exceeding 125 percent of the baseline horsepower rating) and powered and self-propelled by a new nonroad diesel-fueled compression-ignition engine meeting Tier 4-Final emissions certification, as determined by the applicable EPA Engine Family Name and State of California Air Resources Board (ARB) Executive Order (or EPA Certificate of Conformity, when applicable).Emissions certified as Tier 4-Final under a Family Emissions Level (FEL) value that exceeds any emissions standard (STD) value or Interim Tier 4 under an EPA or ARB Flexibility Provision will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis for equivalency with 2020 or 2021 model-year standards.

Significant emission reduction benefits are achieved when higher-polluting off-road agricultural equipment are retired earlier than through normal turnover and replaced with new “like” equipment powered by emissions-certified nonroad diesel engines that serves the same function and performs equivalent work to the equipment being replaced.  The minimum emission benefits will result in at least a 30 percent reduction in NOx emissions and no increase in PM emissions.  The applicable NRCS Conservation Practice Standard (CPS) is 372 – Combustion System Improvement.

Equipment horsepower is based on the manufacturer’s advertised brake- or gross-horsepower rating of the equipment make and model.  To establish baseline conditions, the participant must own and operate the existing in-use equipment for at least 24 consecutive months (two years) from the date of contract application.  Soon after replacement, the existing in-use equipment is destroyed and scrapped to ensure the emissions reductions are permanent.  Please refer to CPS 372-Specifications for more information.

Off-road mobile equipment powered and self-propelled by nonroad diesel engines and used exclusively in agriculture are applicable for the NAQI (e.g. “L” designation in the EPA Engine Family Name on Tier-certified engines). 

Examples of equipment used in agriculture and applicable for NAQI:

  • Wheeled Tractors
  • Tracked Tractors
  • Bulldozers
  • Harrowbeds
  • Class V Forklifts
  • Rough-Terrain Forklifts
  • Surface Harvesters
  • Forage Harvesters
  • Combines
  • Swathers
  • Shakers
  • Tillers
  • Sprayers
  • Sweepers
  • Backhoe Loaders
  • Articulating Loaders
  • Skid-Steer Loaders
  • Skip Loaders

Examples of equipment used in agriculture and not applicable for NAQI:

  • On-road trucks
  • Off-highway trucks
  • Dump trucks
  • Water trucks or wagons
  • Bale squeeze trucks
  • Cranes
  • Manure spreaders
  • All-terrain vehicles
  • Portable elevators
  • Irrigation engines
  • Gensets
  • Stationary or portable engines
  • Farm implements
  • Pull-behind sprayers
  • Equipment not in-use or none-functional
  • Equipment powered with spark-ignition engines
  • In-use equipment powered with Tier 3 or 4 diesel engines
  • Equipment rated at less than 25 bhp
  • Forklifts, other than Class V or Rough-Terrain
  • Forklifts designed for mounting on a carrier
  • Equipment fueled by gasoline, LPG, natural gas, or fuels or blends other than diesel, renewable diesel, or biodiesel

Documentation Worksheets for Off-Road Mobile Equipment

  1. California In-Use Existing Equipment/Engine (Baseline) Worksheet and Instructions
  2. California New Equipment/Engine Worksheet (Proposed) and Instructions
  3. California Equipment/Engine Destruction Certification Worksheet
  4. California Emissions Calculation Worksheet
  5. San Joaquin Valley Annual Reporting Worksheet

The first two worksheets are for the applicant to document the proposed in-use and new nonroad engines and equipment information for submittal to the NRCS with an EQIP application.  The third worksheet may be used by the participant to document equipment and engine destruction and disposal in accordance with CPS 372-Specifications.  The fourth worksheet is used by the conservation planner and/or the participant for calculating the estimated emissions and emission reductions associated with the conservation practice.  The fifth worksheet is for San Joaquin Valley participants providing annual reports to the NRCS that documents their new equipment usage over the 10-year practice lifespan.

California Air Resources Board State Implementation Plan (SIP) for the San Joaquin Valley

Beginning in 2009, a partnership developed with agricultural stakeholders and representatives from the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (SJVAPCD), California Air Resources Board (ARB), US EPA, and USDA NRCS.  The objective was to identify the mechanisms where voluntary measures through incentive-based emission reductions could receive credit towards meeting California’s State Implementation Plan (SIP) goals for the San Joaquin Valley.  The overall benefits would account for improvements to air quality, public health and welfare, and progress toward attaining the NAAQS pursuant to the Clean Air Act though voluntary measures, thereby postponing or perhaps eliminating any action by ARB to adopt new mobile farm equipment prohibitory rules and regulations.

Applying voluntary incentive-based emission reductions through programs like EQIP towards SIP emission reduction goals had never been tried before.  As ARB and SJVAPCD also administer their own respective voluntary incentive programs, this direction led toward the SJVAPCD adopting Rule 9610 in June 2013.  Rule 9610 ensures the emission reductions achieved through voluntary incentive programs in the San Joaquin Valley become eligible for SIP credit in accordance with the Clean Air Act.

In October 2018, ARB adopted their “Valley State Strategy” by including new regulatory- and incentive-based control measures for reducing NOx and PM2.5 emissions under the “San Joaquin Valley Supplement to the 2016 Strategy for the State Implementation Plan”.  The Valley State Strategy commitments for improving off-road mobile agricultural equipment seeks 11 tons of NOx per day reductions for the San Joaquin Valley by 2024.  Voluntary measures through State and Federal incentive funding along with participating producer investments will continue as important strategies for achieving this and any future emission reduction goals.

Included with CPS 372-Operations and Maintenance, San Joaquin Valley producers participating in the National Air Quality Initiative are to provide NRCS with annual reports of their new equipment usage over the duration of the practice 10-year lifespan.  This information is used to qualify equipment operations and quantify the on-going emission reductions to ensure the air quality benefits continue.  The NRCS submits aggregated emissions summary reports to the SJVAPCD, ARB and EPA annually, void of any information deemed as confidential, by reporting the creditable emission reductions achieved in the San Joaquin Valley through EQIP funding for SIP consideration. 

EPA, ARB and SJVAPCD continue to search for science-based and cost-effective emission reductions from agriculture as new strategies for deploying the cleanest emissions technologies are developed.  NRCS and its partners will continue to support voluntary approaches for addressing the air quality resource concerns in the San Joaquin Valley and other air quality challenged regions in California.

More information on the San Joaquin Valley SIP and diesel engines powering off-road mobile agricultural equipment can be found by visiting the ARB and SJVAPCD websites:

Financial and Technical Assistance

Landuses

Only applications for agricultural operations that address resource concerns on at least one land use type listed below will be considered for financial assistance from this EQIP Ranking Pool. The descriptions below are the general NRCS land use definitions - applications should fit within, but do not need to exactly match, these descriptions.

  • Crop: Land used primarily for the production and harvest of annual or perennial field, forage, food, fiber, horticultural, orchard, vineyard, or energy crops.
  • Pasture: Land composed of introduced or domesticated native forage species that is used primarily for the production of livestock. Pastures receive periodic renovation and cultural treatments, such as tillage, fertilization, mowing, weed control, and may be irrigated. Pastures are not in rotation with crops.
  • Range: Land used primarily for the production of grazing animals. Includes native plant communities and those seeded to native or introduced species, or naturalized by introduced species that are ecologically managed using range management principles.
  • Forest: Land on which the primary vegetation is tree cover (climax, natural or introduced plant community) and use is primarily for production of wood products or non-timber forest products.
  • Farmstead: Land used for facilities and supporting infrastructure where farming, forestry, animal husbandry, and ranching activities are often initiated. This may include dwellings, equipment storage, plus farm input and output storage and handling facilities.

Resource Concerns

The objective in conservation planning is to help each client attain sustainable use and sound management of soil, water, air, plant, animal, and energy resources, based on related human considerations (SWAPA+H).

SWAPA+H
Resource Concern
Resource Concern Component
Air
Air Quality Emissions
Emissions of ozone precursors
Emissions of particulate matter (PM) and PM precursors
Emissions of airborne reactive nitrogen

Emissions of Ozone Precursors:  Ozone (O3) precursor gases are oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which chemically react in the atmosphere to produce ground-level ozone. Ozone is not directly emitted pollutant but is formed in the atmosphere through chemical reactions of NOx and VOCs in the presence of sunlight, where it’s reactivity can be influenced by ambient heat.  Though ozone in the upper atmosphere forms a layer that provides protection from ultraviolet radiation, ambient ozone in the lower atmosphere and at ground level can be harmful to public health, plants and animals.  Sources of NOx and VOC come from naturally occurring “biogenic sources” and from “anthropogenic sources” that include livestock activities, pesticide application, solvent and gasoline storage and use, nitrification-denitrification processes, and combustion from boilers, heaters, engines and open burning.     

Emissions of Particulate Matter (PM) and PM Precursors:  Particulate Matter is classified by its size where PM2.5 and PM10 have an aerodynamic mean diameter of less than 2.5 and 10 micrometers, respectively.  PM2.5 is directly emitted to the atmosphere by combustion processes (e.g. diesel exhaust emissions and smoke from open burning) and by mechanical means (e.g. dust from unpaved roads or tillage activities).  PM2.5 is also formed in the atmosphere by chemical reactions of PM precursor gases that include NOx, VOC, and ammonia (NH3).  PM precursor sources include combustion activities, fertilizer application, and animal operations. Much of PM10 is mechanically generated and directly emitted to the atmosphere by actions that disaggregate the soil such as tillage operations, roads and field travel, animal movement, harvesting activities, bulk material storage and handling, and wind erosion.  Larger, visible PM is often geologic in origin or smoke from combustion and will range in different sizes to include PM2.5 and PM10.

Emissions of Airborne Reactive Nitrogen: Airborne reactive nitrogen describes many nitrogen-containing compounds associated with atmospheric chemical reactions that contribute to unwanted ecosystem effects.  As the primary pollutants of concern are NH3 and NOx, airborne reactive nitrogen contributes to excess fertilization of sensitive ecosystems, eutrophication of water bodies, regional visibility degradation, and impacts to atmospheric chemistry.  Ammonia is mainly emitted from fertilizer application and animal operations.  Combustion from boilers, heaters, engines and open burning are the main sources of agricultural NOx emissions, though to a lesser degree soils and manure management activities will also emit NOx. 

Conservation Practices

All conservation practices planned for financial assistance must be included in the Plan of Operations and address a resource concern in the client’s conservation plan. Payments are based on the manufacturer’s advertised new vehicle or equipment brake- or gross-horsepower rating. NRCS conservation practices applicable for financial assistance through this EQIP Initiative are listed in the below table.

Practice Code
Conservation Practice Name
Practice Payment Scenario
Units
Lifespan
372
Combustion System Improvement
Mobile IC, 25-160 bhp
no
10 years
372
Combustion System Improvement
Mobile IC, >160 bhp
no
10 years

For more information about conservation practices, visit the NRCS conservation practice standards webpage.

The Combustion System Improvement Practice Standard and more information are available on-line at:

Interested Applicants

Interested owners and operators of land managed for agricultural production within a nonattainment [or attainment (maintenance area)] area for 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, Orange, Placer, Riverside, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Joaquin, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, Sonoma, Stanislaus, Sutter, Tuolumne, Tulare, Ventura, Yolo, and Yuba.

For more information about EQIP, how to apply and program eligibility, interested applicants should contact a NRCS field office in the county which you own land or where you have an agricultural operation.

Contact

Visit the USDA Service Center Locator webpage to find the NRCS representative for your county.