Commentary: Owners of diesel agricultural trucks must 'use it or lose it'

Issue Date: March 17, 2010
Cynthia Cory

Cynthia Cory

It's "use it or lose it" time. That's how one Farm Bureau member described it to me last week, emphasizing the need for farmers, ranchers and agricultural businesses to report diesel trucks that meet the agricultural provisions of a new air rule.

The deadline is March 31 to file the forms with the state Air Resources Board.

It's important for every farmer and rancher whose trucks qualify to report them.

Why? Because it's your one-time chance to gain more time to comply with new state air-quality rules intended to reduce emissions from on-road diesel trucks.

Agricultural trucks generally don't operate as many miles per year as other diesel on-road vehicles, so the Air Resources Board granted an extended compliance period for certain agricultural trucks to have their engines retrofitted or replaced.

Qualified agricultural diesel trucks must display a marking such as shown above, to show their status under a new air-quality rule. Farmers can obtain stickers such as this from county Farm Bureaus and other agricultural organizations.

Under the rule, qualified agricultural vehicles have at least until Jan. 1, 2017, to meet the new standard. Agricultural trucks driven fewer than 10,000 miles a year will have until Jan. 1, 2023. Non-agricultural trucks must begin retrofitting their engines as early as 2011, depending on the age of the truck.

At this time, you only need to sign up trucks that will meet the agricultural provisions. Those trucks that cannot meet the agricultural provisions do not need to be signed up with ARB until 2011 or later. ARB anticipates making a number of changes to the rule, which will be proposed this spring and voted on this summer. But those changes will not affect the agricultural portion of the rule, so you need to report ag-qualified trucks now.

There are five categories of diesel trucks that can qualify as agricultural vehicles under the rule: fertilizer or pesticide trucks; trucks owned by a farming business and used exclusively in agricultural operations; trucks designed for in-field operations; trucks used to carry products from farm to "first point of processing"; and specialty agricultural vehicles, a limited category for equipment such as cotton module movers, farmer-owned water trucks (not for hire), feed trucks at beef feedlots or nurse rigs for agricultural aircraft.

I've participated in many workshops and hearings around the state about this rule and it's clear that there's a lot of confusion about it—not just among farmers and ranchers, but among the regulators as well. Farm Bureau has provided information about the diesel rules on our Web site, at

Because it's a complicated rule, take the time to read the material carefully and to make sure you can collect all the information that you need to submit with your forms. If your diesel truck qualifies for the agricultural provisions, it will be worth your time and effort to go through the process.

The ARB has been holding seminars around the state to discuss the March 31 reporting requirements for the truck regulation; on this page, you'll find a list of more than a half-dozen seminars remaining before the end of the month.

Once your diesel truck qualifies as an agricultural vehicle under the rule, you have another obligation: You must clearly mark that truck. And you must mark it in a certain way, with the letters "AG" on the left and right door of each qualified vehicle.

To make that process easier, Farm Bureau has provided stickers that meet the ARB rules for identifying agricultural vehicles. Those stickers will be available at county Farm Bureau offices around the state. Many already have the stickers and others will have them soon; check with your county Farm Bureau to find out about how to get them. Other agricultural organizations will make them available to members as well, so check with your commodity associations.

Farm Bureau will keep working with the ARB to make sure its members and staff know how farmers and ranchers are trying to comply with these complicated rules. Please remember to register your diesel agricultural vehicles by the end of the month—use it or lose it.

Seminars explain truck-reporting rule

The California Air Resources board has been holding training seminars across the state, to discuss the March 31 reporting requirements for the truck and bus regulation. The ARB said the seminars will focus on the agricultural and two-engine sweeper rules, and on how to use the board's online reporting system. Several seminars remain before the deadline arrives at the end of the month:

  • March 18, Sacramento, ARB headquarters, Byron Sher Auditorium, 1001 I St., 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
  • March 22, Santa Rosa, Shone Farm, Santa Rosa Junior College, 9 a.m.; pre-register via Sonoma County Farm Bureau, 707-544-5575 or
  • March 22, Marysville, Yuba County Government Center, 915 8th St., 1:30 p.m.
  • March 23, Colusa, Colusa Industrial Properties, 100 Sunrise Blvd., 1 p.m.
  • March 24, Ventura, Ventura County Air Pollution Control District, 669 County Square Dr., 1:30 p.m.
  • March 25, Bakersfield, UCCE/Kern County agricultural commissioner auditorium, 1031 South Mt. Vernon Ave., 9 a.m.
  • March 25, Tulare, Tulare County agricultural commissioner's office, 4437 S. Laspina St., 2 p.m.
  • March 26, Fresno, Fresno County Farm Bureau, 1274 W. Hedges, 1 p.m.

Information about the rule is posted on the California Farm Bureau Web site at

(Cynthia Cory is director of environmental affairs for the California Farm Bureau Federation. She may be contacted at (916) 446-4647.)

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