Skip Navigation

California Air Quality for Ozone and PM Reductions

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 California Air Quality Initiative for Ozone and Particulate Matter (PM) Reductions is designed to help agricultural producers meet air quality compliance requirements and offer opportunities to support practices that addresses impacts associated with greenhouse gases.  Implementing conservation practices that reduce oxides of nitrogen (NOx), volatile organic compounds (VOC), particulate matter (PM) emissions helps achieve and maintain the health- and welfare-based National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) in California.  Several practices may also offer additional air quality benefits by reducing ammonia (NH4) emissions as well as greenhouse gases of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) or nitrous oxides (N2O).

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 Ozone and PM or predesignated as “Attainment (Maintenance Area)”.  These areas experience air pollution levels that persistently exceed the NAAQS established by the Clean Air Act.  Funding assistance may also be available to address the air quality resources concerns within areas designated as “Unclassifiable/Attainment” of the Ozone and PM NAAQS. 

EPA posts the NAAQS nonattainment area designations on-line at https://www.epa.gov/green-book.

These priorities are 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 Strategic Plan also supports greenhouse gas benefits by increasing the number of conservation plans that reduce greenhouse gas emission sources and sequester carbon. 

California NRCS 2020-25 Five Year Strategic Plan is available at:  https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/ca/about/?cid=stelprdb1264052

The conservation treatments under EQIP fund pool are listed below with the applicable Conservation Practice Standards (CPS) at the end of each paragraph. It is recommended that nonroad diesel-powered equipment used for implementing conservation treatments are powered by Tier 3 or Tier 4 emissions-certified diesel engines to minimize NOx, VOC, PM and other emissions from diesel exhaust. 

  • Adopt no-till or reduced-till conservation tillage practices to reduce soil disturbances and leave crop residue on the soil surface. This treatment will reduce PM and greenhouse gas emissions and can sequester carbon. [CPS 329 or CPS 345, respectively]
  • Utilize a combined-tillage implement equipped with four or more tillage tools mounted on a single frame designed to perform multiple tasks in a single pass and provides 35 to 50 percent PM10 control efficiency.  All improved land preparation acre-pass activities will reduce PM10 emissions by at least 30 percent of the baseline conventional-tillage land preparation systems that otherwise relies on individual tasks and multiple passes.  [CPS 376]
  • Implement a reduced-pass tillage management system that reports at least 30 percent reduction in field acre-passes from baseline conventional tillage activities for reducing PM10 emissions. [CPS 376]
  • Use "low-dust" harvester technologies for reducing PM10 emissions by at least 30 percent over that of conventional surface harvester pick-up machines, as demonstrated by available peer-reviewed information.  [CPS 376]
  • Stabilize unpaved on-farm roads and surface areas with an application of SC-250 or SC-800 slow-cure bituminous road oils, lignin-based organic (nonpetroleum) adhesives, or synthetic polymer products that limit visible dust and PM emissions caused by vehicular traffic and wind actions.  Prior to applying any dust suppressant, the condition of the unpaved road and surface must be in good condition.  Apply dust suppression products according to manufacturer specifications.  Any voluntary installation of additional measures, such as preconditioning the unpaved surface, applying aggregate or other surface treatment materials, installing gates or barriers to limit vehicle access, and posting speed limit signs, helps prolong the treated surface area.  Not included under this initiative is the treatment of unpaved road shoulders adjacent to paved roads. [CPS 373]
  • Establish or renovate windbreaks and shelterbelts around an Animal Feeding Operation (AFO) to effectively reduce and intercept fugitive dust emissions and odors generated from animal activities.   Include an irrigation system in the conservation plan. [CPS 380 or CPS 650, and CPS 441]
  • Manure injection methods onto croplands not associated with AFO’s.  Croplands coupled with AFOs may apply under the applicable AFO-EQIP Fund Pools.  Manure injection can effectively control airborne reactive nitrogen and objectionable odors. [CPS 590]
  • Chip woody debris from an orchard or vineyard removal in preparation for replanting with another crop.  Chipping the removal debris as an open burn alternative, where the materials could be permitted to be burned by an air quality or fire protection agency having the authority for issuing agricultural burn permits, reduces smoke emissions of NOx, VOC, PM, odors and other gases.  This treatment excludes the chipping or shredding of annual pruning materials.  Remove all chemically treated wood prior to chipping.  The chipped wood may be applied to the land as mulch, used as animal bedding materials, provide a carbon source for a denitrifying bioreactor, applied as dust suppressants to unpaved roads and traffic areas, used as feedstock for composting, incorporated into the soil, or hauled to a biomass-fueled power plant for use as a renewable fuel. [CPS 384]
  • Perform Whole Orchard Recycling of the chipped orchard removal wood as an open burn alternative by distributing evenly and incorporating the chipped woody biomass from removed orchard trees greater than 10 years old back into the soil in which they were grown.  This treatment applies solely to orchard trees and excludes vineyards and bush crops.  Whole Orchard Recycling may be used in orchards where it will not pose an increased risk for disease, or where an increased risk of disease is managed by excluding diseased biomass or using similar cultural practices.  As a soil carbon amendment, incorporating the chipped woody biomass into the soil sequesters carbon and improves soil health. [Interim CPS 808] 
  • Use air curtain burners as an open burn alternative for removing woody debris from an orchard, vineyard or bush crop removal for replanting with another crop, when chipping the materials are not feasible.  As with chipping, the materials would otherwise be permitted to be burned by an air quality or fire protection agency having the authority for issuing agricultural burn permits.  The participant must ensure whether the air curtain burner itself is subject to permitting by the applicable air quality agency that would allow for this activity to occur.  Safely remove and properly dispose of any chemically treated wood. Air curtain burners can significantly reduce smoke emissions of NOx, VOC, PM, odors, and other gases.  [CPS 384] 
  • Utilize precision spray application technologies under integrated pest management (IPM) strategies for reducing VOC emissions from pesticide application.  The priority is to implement IPM strategies that apply non-VOC and low-VOC non-fumigant products as identified by the State of California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) with precision spray application technologies. [CPS 595]
    DRP maintains an on-line list of the non-fumigant VOC regulations and products:  https://www.cdpr.ca.gov/docs/emon/vocs/vocproj/nonfum_voc_prod_list.pdf.
  • Safe handling and disposal of chemically treated wood stakes from vineyards and orchards.  Chemical treatments may include creosote, arsenic-based preservatives such as Chromium Copper Arsenate (CCA), or other chemical preservative that protects wood from insects and fungal decay.  These chemical preservatives are hazardous and can pose a risk to human health and the environment if not handled appropriately.  This practice avoids the improper and unlawful handling and disposal of this material (e.g. hazardous smoke and ash from open burning or dust from chipping) and ensures the proper disposal at State-approved landfills that accept chemically treated wood wastes.  Because not all crop acres contain treated wood, provide a weight estimate of the amount of treated wood for disposal.  Generally, an acre of vineyard can yield approximately 1.5 tons of wood stakes and end posts. [CPS 500]

    The State of California Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC) recently announced that the California statute and regulation that allowed for treated wood wastes to be handled with alternative management standards are due to expire on December 31, 2020.  This means that as of January 1, 2021, all treated wood wastes managed in California will have to be stored and manifested as hazardous waste and transported to Class I hazardous waste landfills for disposal. Participants therefore ought to contact the nearest landfill prior to removal to ensure acceptance of chemically treated wood wastes in compliance with State law.  DTSC contact information as well as the particulars over the proper handling and disposal of chemically treated wood wastes are available on-line at: https://dtsc.ca.gov/toxics-in-products/treated-wood-waste/.

Land Uses

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 Fun 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 livestock production. 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.
  • 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.
  • Associated Agricultural Lands: Land associated with farms and ranches that are not purposefully managed for food, forage, or fiber and are typically associated with nearby production or conservation lands. This could include incidental areas, such as odd areas, ditches and watercourses, riparian areas, field edges, seasonal and permanent wetlands, and other similar areas.

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+HE).

SWAPAE+H
Resource Concern Category
Resource Concern
Air
Air Quality Emissions
Emissions of airborne reactive nitrogen
Emissions of greenhouse gases - GHGs
Emissions of ozone precursors
Emissions of particulate matter (PM) and PM precursors

 

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 Greenhouse Gases (GHGs): Direct or indirect emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG), primarily carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O), that accumulate in the atmosphere can have a potent impact on the climate. Activities from crop fertilization (natural and synthetic), tillage and agricultural soils management, manure management, livestock enteric fermentation, combustion activities, rice cultivation, and land-use conversion all contribute to excess agricultural GHG emissions into the atmosphere.  Fuel consumption as an energy source contributes to atmospheric CO2.  Soil tillage is also a CO2 contributor by increasing the rate of soil organic matter decomposition and releasing soil carbon into the atmosphere.  Methane is produced as part of the normal digestive processes in animals and through anaerobic decomposition of manure and managed waste.  A portion of nitrogen fertilizer applied to crops and grasslands emit N2O by volatilization through the nitrification/denitrification process.

Objectionable Odors:  Agricultural odors are a complex mixture of gases that can be generally classified as volatile organic compounds, ammonia, or odorous sulfur compounds.  The primary sources of odors are animal housing, manure storage, land application of manure, silage storing, open burning, and fertilizer and pesticide application. 

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 ammonia (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

NRCS conservation practices eligible for financial assistance through this ranking pool are listed in the below table. For more information about NRCS conservation practices visit the following website link: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/national/technical/?cid=NRCSDEV11_001020.

Practice Code
Conservation Practice Name
Practice Units
Lifespan
(Years)
329
Residue and Tillage Management, No-Till
ac
1
345
Residue and Tillage Management, Reduced Till
ac
1
373
Dust Control on Unpaved Roads and Surfaces
sqft.
1
375
Dust Control from Animal Activity on Open Lot Surfaces
Ac
1
376
Field Operations Emissions Reduction
Ac
1
380
Windbreak/Shelterbelt Establishment
Ac
15
384
Woody Residue Treatment
Ac
10
441
Irrigation System, Microirrigation
Ac
15
442
Sprinkler System
Ac
15
500
Obstruction Removal
Ac
10
590
Nutrient Management
Ac
1
595
Pest Management Conservation System
Ac
1
650
Windbreak/Shelterbelt Renovation
ft
15
808 Soil Carbon Amendment Ac 1

Interested Applicants

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. 

Visit https://offices.sc.egov.usda.gov/locator/ to find the NRCS representative for your county.

 

Updated: 03/10/2021