Having succeeded in the Senate, a coalition of agricultural organizations led by the California Farm Bureau Federation is urging the House of Representatives to include funding for an air quality improvement program in its draft of the 2012 Farm Bill.
The Air Quality Initiative in the 2008 Farm Bill allows farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to participate in a cost-share program to help them upgrade equipment, decrease emissions and address federal air quality regulations. So far, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has partnered with more than 1,100 of the state's farmers and ranchers to reduce emissions an estimated five tons per day—the equivalent of taking 408,000 cars off of California highways.
The program is not included in the current House version of the new farm bill. The House Agriculture Committee will begin markup on the bill tomorrow, where Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, is expected to introduce an amendment to continue the Air Quality Initiative.
"This program has been important in helping farmers enhance air quality and address new regulations," California Farm Bureau Federation President Paul Wenger said. "The Air Quality Initiative directs money to farmers in regions with the greatest air quality concerns, which adds to the value of the program."
In California, the Air Quality Initiative received between 1,500 and 2,000 applications from farmers each year, but was only able to fund 300 to 350 per year. The farm coalition said continuing the program would benefit air quality in California and throughout the country.
"We still have important work to do in complying with federal regulations," the coalition said in a letter addressed to leaders of the House committee. "By including this air quality language in the Conservation Title, farmers will be better able to meet federal, state and local air quality regulations."
In addition to the California Farm Bureau, other members of the coalition include the Agricultural Council of California, American Pistachio Growers, Arizona Cattle Growers Association, Arizona Farm Bureau, Associated California Loggers, Association of California Water Agencies, California Association of Resource Conservation Districts, California Cattlemen's Association, California Citrus Mutual, California Cotton Ginners and Growers Associations, California Forestry Association, California Grape & Tree Fruit League, California Poultry Association, California Strawberry Commission, California Women for Agriculture, Far West Equipment Dealers Association, Fresno County Farm Bureau, Imperial Valley Vegetable Growers, Kings County Farm Bureau, Nisei Farmers League, Raisin Bargaining Association, San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, Texas Farm Bureau, Tulare County Farm Bureau, Utah Farm Bureau, Ventura County Agricultural Association, Western Agricultural Processors Association, Western Growers, Western Plant Health Association and Western United Dairymen.
The California Farm Bureau Federation works to protect family farms and ranches on behalf of more than 74,000 members statewide and as part of a nationwide network of more than 6.2 million Farm Bureau members.