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in the KNOW

October 5, 2012

Tractor Rule Leaves the Barn

By: Emily Rooney
Ag Council President

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) recently completed workshops to discuss developing a strategy for reducing emissions from “in-use off-road diesel mobile agricultural equipment with engines greater than 25 horsepower.” In other words, we’re talking about your tractors.

In 2007, CARB adopted a regulation to reduce diesel particulate matter (PM) and oxides of nitrogen (NOx) emissions from tractors. Equipment used solely for agricultural operations or forestry operations was originally exempt from this regulation. However, as part of the 2007 State Implementation Plan, CARB committed to bring a proposal forward by 2013 to convert agricultural and forestry equipment to meet the cleanest new engine NOx standard as quickly as possible.

The original exemption recognized that diesel agricultural equipment can remain in use for long periods of time, and thus fleet turnover to newer technology is slower than in some other sectors, such as construction. But, CARB also stated that “this long life means that equipment with new lower emitting engines is introduced into fleets relatively slowly with a direct impact on the pace that emissions reductions materialize.”

The purpose of the workshops, according to CARB, is to begin a formal public dialogue on effectively achieving emission reductions in the agricultural sector. CARB staff is currently visiting farms to better understand current inventories and has also been evaluating agricultural census data, equipment sales and fuel sales to develop inventory estimates.

In addition, CARB staff indicated during the recent workshops that an economic analysis will be conducted as part of the proposed rule. Using existing statistical information, CARB staff believes they have industry-level data. However, the averages provide a limited picture of the impact of this rule and more information specific to individual operations and commodities needs to be gathered.

The category of equipment that could potentially be impacted with this rule includes not only tractors, but certain classes of ATVs, forklifts and skid steers. As a result, first point of processing operations–including Ag Council members–will be impacted by this rule, as well as farmers.

Ag Council staff has already participated in the early workshops and will continue to meet with CARB staff to provide input on behalf of our members. Additional workshops will take place in the coming months with a final workshop scheduled for spring 2013, and we will apprise you of the workshop dates and locations. The regulation is expected to be finalized next year.

We are encouraging our members to stay abreast of developments related to this proposed rule and to provide input on how this regulation could impact your business. If you would like more information, please visit CARB’s website HERE.