Commentary: FARMER program helps replace farm equipment


Issue Date: May 9, 2018
By Noelle Cremers
Noelle Cremers
Agricultural harvesting equipment, heavy-duty trucks, agricultural pump engines, tractors and other equipment used in agricultural operations may qualify for a new state program, known as FARMER, to encourage vehicle or equipment replacement.
Photo/Cecilia Parsons

A new, voluntary program provides a significant opportunity for California farmers seeking to replace older vehicles and equipment that may be regulated in the future under state air-quality rules.

Farm Bureau joined many agricultural and other organizations last year to ensure $300 million in funding was included in the final Cap and Trade Expenditure Plan to help the agricultural community comply with many of the state's air quality and climate change mandates. The plan included $135 million to go toward the replacement of agricultural harvesting equipment, heavy-duty trucks, agricultural pump engines, tractors and other equipment used in agricultural operations.

Local air districts will distribute these funds under the Funding Agricultural Replacement Measures for Emission Reductions, or FARMER, program. The state Air Resources Board adopted the final guidelines to distribute these funds in late March. ARB is working to finalize contracts to distribute the funds to local air districts.

The funds available through the FARMER program provide significant assistance to California farmers who face the most stringent air quality requirements in the nation, if not the world. For example, trucks that will be phased out under the ARB diesel truck and bus rule may be eligible for funds to cover a significant portion of the replacement cost. Additionally, tractors that may be regulated in the future could be replaced now using FARMER program funds.

Farmers can apply to their local air districts to receive funding for voluntary agricultural vehicle and engine replacements. The FARMER program provides funding for:

  • Heavy-duty truck replacements;
  • Mobile off-road farm equipment replacements;
  • Agricultural irrigation pump replacements;
  • Zero-emission agricultural all-terrain vehicles (ATVs);
  • The Off-Road Mobile Agricultural Equipment Trade-Up Pilot Project, also known as the Ag Trade-Up Pilot Project.

ARB will allow up to 85 percent of the cost of a vehicle or equipment replacement to be paid under the program, and 75 percent of the costs of ATV replacements. Currently, the Ag Trade-Up Pilot Project is only available within the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District. The $135 million in the FARMER program will be divided among the state's 35 air districts. The San Joaquin Valley district will receive 80 percent of the funds, or $108 million. The remaining 20 percent will be distributed based on each district's portion of emissions from farm equipment and the attainment status with National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

There are 18 air districts with less than 1 percent of farm equipment emissions. Those districts will be pooled together, and applicants in any of those districts will be eligible to apply for the $5.5 million available to those districts. It is expected that one air district will administer the program for those 18 districts, and interested farmers will apply to that district once it is determined. The 18 air districts pooled together include: North Coast Unified, Siskiyou, Modoc, Shasta, Lassen, Northern Sierra, Mendocino, Lake, Placer, El Dorado, Northern Sonoma, Amador, Calaveras, Tuolumne, Mariposa, Great Basin Unified, Antelope Valley and Mojave Desert.

Districts proposed to receive direct allocations will determine whether or not to accept the funds and have 60 days from when they receive the notice from ARB to decide. If a district chooses not to participate, those funds will be reallocated to the remaining districts.

Some air districts are already accepting applications for the FARMER program or will use the funds for existing agricultural applications through the Carl Moyer Program, which provides funding for cleaner-running engines. Other districts are in the process of developing the application. All funds from the FARMER program will need to be committed by June 30, 2019, and spent by June 30, 2021.

Farm Bureau urges anyone interested in participating to reach out to your local air district to apply. Contacts for the local air districts with individual allocations and additional information on the FARMER program are available on the California Farm Bureau Federation website at www.cfbf.com/top-issues#environment. Look for the tab that says FARMER program.

(Noelle Cremers is senior policy advocate for the California Farm Bureau Federation. She may be contacted at ncremers@cfbf.com.)

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.