Farm Bill amendment targets $16M for clean tractors

Cleaner tractorCleaner tractorThe U.S. Senate has passed an amendment to the 2012 Farm Bill that would provide $16 million to help local farmers replace existing tractors with more efficient, less polluting tractors.

Under the plan, farmers in Fresno County and other areas where pollution is a problem would pay half the cost of replacing their tractors. Overall, the Air Quality Initiative, which must still be approved by the House, helps farmers with air quality projects to meet federal, state and local regulatory requirements.

Besides tractor replacement, the amendment would provide funding for more efficient stationary diesel engines, applying oil to dirt to cut down on dust and better soil management.

“This is great,” said Manuel Cunha Jr., president of the Nisei Farmers League in Fresno. A Senate super committee stripped the funding amendment that first appeared in the Farm Bill back in 2008.

The clean air amendment and its funding plan stems from the EPA’s 1989 Clean Air Act that addresses toxic air pollution in urban and farm environments.

“Sen. Feinstein fought and got it back in,” Cunha said.

Beside Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., the amendment had the support of Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. and Sen. Jon Kyle, R-Ariz.

A coalition led by the California Farm Bureau Federation and the Nisei Farmers League praised the Senate for ensuring that the Air Quality Initiative remains a vital part of the Farm Bill.

“Air quality improvement and the stewardship of natural resources are priorities for farmers,” said Paul Wenger, California Farm Bureau president in a release. “We thank Senators Feinstein, Boxer and Kyl, as well as others who helped the amendment pass.”

Wenger added, “We hope that the House will recognize the importance of the program and maintain it in the bill.”

Farmers and ranchers in California, Arizona, Texas and other states benefit from the program. The Air Quality Initiative provides assistance to farmers and ranchers for conservation practices that preserve or improve air quality.

The program prioritizes money for areas of the country with the highest air quality concerns. In California alone, more than 1,100 farmers and ranchers partnered with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service on projects that reduced emissions an estimated 5 tons per day, which is the equivalent of removing more than 408,000 cars from California roads.