California will receive $10,943,940 or about a third of the money newly made available through the federal 2008 Farm Bill to help farmers and ranchers with conservation practices to improve air quality.
The funds will be administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Funds will be made available through the popular Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) that has been operating in California since 1996 and last year provided $54 million in cost share assistance.
"California has led the nation in pioneering ways to partner with agricultural organizations and regulatory agencies to identify technical and organizational ways to protect the air," says Ed Burton, State Conservationist of NRCS in California. "I intend to continue the $5 million in EQIP support of air quality efforts so that the overall funds available for this work should now near $16 million," he says.
Burton noted that since 2004 NRCS in California has spent over $21 million on conservation practices to improve air quality including treating rural roads, upgrading farm engines to cleaner models, chipping orchard prunings in lieu of burning, and minimizing pesticide sprays. Since farmers match the federal funds, the total dedicated to air quality through EQIP is approximately $42 million.
Thirty-six counties are eligible to use the funds to help them come into compliance with standards for PM 2.5 (particulate matter particles smaller than 2.5 microns and associated with health concerns), PM 10.0 and 8-hour ozone levels. The counties are: Alameda, Amador, 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 Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, Sonoma, Stanislaus, Sutter, Tulare, Tuolumne, Ventura, Yolo.