Agriculture

Congressman Cardoza helps secure money for Central Valley's air pollution fight

Congressman Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, has helped Merced County farmers get money to help clean up the air. Farmers may use the money to upgrade their tractors, or buy new ones, like this one at N&S Tractor in Merced.
Congressman Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, has helped Merced County farmers get money to help clean up the air. Farmers may use the money to upgrade their tractors, or buy new ones, like this one at N&S Tractor in Merced. SUN-STAR PHOTO BY MARCI STENBERG

Farmers working to meet air quality regulations got a monetary boost from the 2008 farm bill.

Congressman Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, said $11 million of federal funds will help growers and farmers in Valley areas that have extreme air problems.

"For so long farmers have been under the gun of increasing federal and state air quality restrictions," Cardoza said.

Cardoza, along with Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, worked to get the money allocated through the farm bill.

Cardoza believes it can be a useful tool in helping agricultural operators in California. "We have secured about $150 million over five years to help farmers to comply with regulations," Cardoza said.

Tom Jordan, senior policy adviser for the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, said the district worked closely with Cardoza, Boxer and Feinstein to make sure that the money goes to the right areas.

"There is a lot of older ag equipment with older technology that can be cleaned up by using this funding," Jordan said.

The air district is working with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, which will be administering the money, to make sure that the guidelines benefit the air district and the farmers.

Jordan said farm equipment is one of the top five sources of nitrogen oxide emissions in the Valley.

"We're hoping that this money can be used to buy new tractors," Jordan said. "We are working aggressively to bring in a new fleet of vehicles to the Valley."

The San Joaquin Valley has been designated as an extreme non-attainment area -- not meeting federal guidelines -- under the Federal Clean Air Act. The resulting air quality regulations in the San Joaquin Valley are the most stringent in the nation.

"These funds are desperately needed," Cardoza said. "Historically, there has been a serious lack of funding to assist agriculture operators meet the tough regulations."

Cardoza said the air quality crisis in the Valley is huge.

"This isn't going to solve the greater problem," he said. "But it's one step closer to helping the farmers deal with the regulatory onslaught they are facing."

Reporter Carol Reiter can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or creiter@mercedsun-star.com.

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