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Air Quality

NRCS Air Quality and Atmospheric Change Johnson Homestead Sunset

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service helps private landowners conserve our natural resources, and air resources are among those.  Our Air Quality resource concerns can be broadly classified into four air quality and atmospheric change issues:   

  • Particulate Matter
  • Ozone Precursors
  • Odor
  • Greenhouse Gases and Carbon Sequestration

For each of these major issues the latest science and the most relevant technical tools are being applied so that NRCS personnel, cooperators and landowners can make the best decisions regarding air resources.

NRCS and EPA have released the Agricultural Air Quality Conservation Measures:  Reference Guide for Poultry and Livestock Operations (PDF 3.1 MB). This guide provides information about NRCS conservation practices and other activities that can be used to address air resource concerns associated with animal production.  Developed as a non-regulatory technical tool, the guide describes different conservation measures that have been successfully demonstrated to reduce emissions of various air pollutants on farms. It is a companion to the previously-released Agricultural Air Quality Conservation Measures:  Reference Guide for Cropping Systems and General Land Management (PDF 895 KB).


National Air Quality Initiative

The new National Air Quality Initiative for FY2016 has been announced and states have been initially selected for participation. These states will receive EQIP funds for targeted air quality work.  Each state has different air quality resource concerns and objectives, and NAQI gives them the ability to tailor their plans for meeting these resource objectives.  For instance, 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 funding smudge pot elimination, 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.

Here is a list of NAQI approved practices for FY16 and their relative effectiveness in managing various air emissions.