Valley Air District providing millions to help farmers buy newer, cleaner tractors

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control district is providing millions to help growers buy newer, cleaner running tractors.

Valley farmers are being encouraged to get newer, cleaner burning equipment with a major grant from the local air district, with help from the state and the federal government.

Hector De La Torre is on the California Air Resources Board.

"From old and dirty to new and clean that is what we trying to do, why, because our young people our seniors in the Central Valley have high rates of asthma because they have health impacts throughout the valley, that is just not acceptable," said De La Torre.

The program is called 'Funding Agricultural Replacement Measures for Emission Reductions,' or FARMER, for short. It provides a hefty subsidy to allow farmers to buy new, or newer equipment.

Fresno County Supervisor Buddy Mendes is the chairman of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District board.

"The incentive only pays 60% so farmers have to kick in 40% to make this thing work," said Mendes.

But, with equipment costing from $60,000 to 4400,000, Manuel Cunha of the Nisei Farmers league notes it's a substantial saving, with benefits that go beyond the farm.

"With this program, we are trying to help the farmers and clean up the air at the same time. You can see the Sierra Nevada more than we ever saw in our lives," said Cunha.

The program also allows farmers to buy cleaner-burning used tractors.

The $108 million is expected to buy about 3,000 new and newer pieces of equipment. Previous programs like this have already replaced 7,000 old and dirty pieces of farm equipment.

While the Valley is still out of compliance with air standards, things are getting better.

According to Mike Stoker, of the Federal Environmental Protection Agency, air pollution is declining, without hurting the ag business.

"These are the kinds of programs that working together we are gonna help this valley get into attainment and I can assure you we are going to do it in a way that lets our farmers keep farming and lets our businesses keep thriving here in the Valley," said Stoker.

Much of the money to fund the farm equipment purchases come from the states cap and trade funding program and the Federal Government.

Farmers can contact the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District for information on how to apply.
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