Saturday, April 17, 2021

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County to help small farmers replace old tractors

Colusa County is looking to make good on its promise to find a way for small farming operations to participate in a state grant program that helps fund the replacement of high-polluting tractors and other old equipment. 

The Board of Supervisors (Air Pollution Control District) on Nov. 17 approved an alternative assistance replacement program that will give small agriculture operations the opportunity to participate in a popular state grant program that is designed to reduce harmful air pollution particles emitted into the air from old equipment. 

The alternative program, which will be presented to the California Air Resources Board for approval, could help applicants, who farm a total of 300 acres or less, replace high-polluting tractors and other equipment, according to Casey Ryan, program administrator. 

The Board of Supervisors in April initially rejected about $600,000 from the Funding Agricultural Replacement Measures for Emission Reductions (FARMER) program, but then reversed that decision a few weeks later due to the financial impact it would impose on the community.  

Their initial reason for rejecting the program was that the program only benefited the big farmers in the county, whose equipment more easily met the hours of usage requirement (as opposed to tracking mileage) and have the cash to invest in the 35 percent share of cost, officials said. 

Ryan said he is working with the state for additional funding for small farmers. Meanwhile, the board agreed to use the money allotted to the county for administering the FARMER program to cover the costs associated with the alternative program for small farming operations. 

Ryan said preference would be given to applicants whose fleet consists of a majority of uncontrolled (Tier O) self-propelled off-road equipment. 

“The fleet cannot be a part of any other entity,” he said. 

The applicant must also operate the new piece of off-road equipment less than 300 hours per year. 

Unlike FARMER, which has a project life of three years, the alternative program will have a project life set at 10 years. 

“The approved applicant must maintain possession of the new equipment and provide usage surveys for a period of 10 years,” Ryan said. “If the equipment is sold during the project life, the new owner must assume the obligations under the applicant’s contact agreement and comply with the terms and conditions of the agreement.”

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