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May 16, 2019  |  Written by Alyson E. Ackerman

Nut Harvest on the Horizon: Funds Available to Replace Nut Harvest Equipment

The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (“Valley Air District” or “District”) offers monetary incentives for farmers to replace existing nut harvesters (harvest equipment) with new, low dust harvest equipment.  The Low Dust Nut Harvester Program (Program) is available for participants and harvest equipment that meet certain eligibility criteria.  The two most important criteria are:  (1) the replacement harvest equipment must reduce particulate matter emissions (i.e., dust) by at least 40 percent over conventional harvesting equipment as demonstrated by peer-reviewed information or District-approved methodology; and (2) an applicant may not already be under contract to receive other public agency funding for the same harvest equipment sought to be replaced, including California Natural Resources Conservation Service funding.  Importantly, both pull-behind and self-propelled harvest equipment are eligible for replacement through the Program.  With almond harvest beginning as early as August, and pistachio and walnut harvest in September, farmers may be able to reap their years’ worth of efforts with new harvest equipment partially funded (via reimbursement) through the Program.

The San Joaquin Valley (Valley) is comprised of approximately seven and a half counties and is surrounded by mountain ranges on three sides – the Coast Ranges to the west, the Tehachapi Mountains to the south, and the Sierra Nevadas to the east – such that the Valley sits in a bowl.  The Valley’s unique geography is partly what makes it such a fertile and agriculturally productive region.  To achieve such agricultural yields, the Valley hosts approximately 50 percent of the state’s agricultural equipment.

The unique geography and agricultural productivity of the Valley create air quality issues that both the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and the Valley Air District have been actively ameliorating.  Between CARB and the Valley Air District’s regulations, the Valley is subject to some of the toughest air regulations in the nation.  However, the Valley Air District also manages substantial incentive grant programs, investing over $2.1 billion in public and private funding for clean air projects, which, as of August 2018, have resulted in reduced emissions by over 150,000 tons.  If used broadly, the Program can contribute to these reductions, as well as support the Almond Board of California’s goal to reduce dust during harvest by 50 percent by 2025.

Those interested in the Program need only submit an application packet to the District.  Currently, the funding is limited to one piece of new harvest equipment per participant.  There are specific eligibility criteria for the participant, the existing harvest equipment, and the replacement harvest equipment.  For example, the participant must operate the new harvest equipment within California for at least 75 percent of its annual hours and within the boundaries of the District for at least 50 percent of its annual hours.  The old harvest equipment must be operational at both the time of application submittal and District inspection.  The old harvest equipment must also have been operating in California for the past two years.  The new replacement harvest equipment must bear a “Funded in part by the Valley Air District” sticker, which a District inspector will affix to the harvest equipment after inspection and before issuance of the incentive funding.

The application for the replacement harvest equipment is available here.  The Valley District’s guidelines regarding eligibility for the Program, eligible replacement harvest equipment, and reimbursable costs is available here.

For more information about the Program or other air quality issues, please contact Alyson E. Ackerman at aackerman@somachlaw.com or 916-469-3843, or Michael E. Vergara at mvergara@somachlaw.com or 916-469-3824.

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