Supervisors Gary Evans, Merced Corona, and John Loudon voted on April 7 not to accept 2020 funding in the amount of $657,000 from the state’s Funding Agricultural Replacement Measures for Emission Reductions (FARMER) program, against the recommendation of Agriculture Commissioner Greg Hinton, who said the popular program helps to reduce harmful air pollution particles emitted into the air from old equipment.
Board Chairwoman Denise Carter, vice-chair of the Sacramento Valley Basinwide Air Pollution Council, and advocate for the program, recused herself from the discussion and vote due to her financial interest in a local agriculture operation. Supervisor Kent Boes moved to approve participation in the program for a third year, but was the only assenting vote.
The FARMER program has, in just the past two years, allowed Colusa County to grant local farmers funding to replace more than 40 old farm implements, mostly tractors, with new equipment that meets the latest emission standards of the California Air Resources Board.
The program pays for 65 percent of the sticker price, said Casey Ryan, program administrator.
“We’ve done it for the past two years,” Ryan said. “We’ve received about $2.7 million in funding.”
Ryan said the Colusa County Air Pollution Control District participated in the FARMER program during fiscal year 2017-18, which funded a total of $1,380,600 toward 18 projects, and again during fiscal year 2018-19, which funded a total of $1,333,351 toward 22 projects.
This year, CARB has made available $75 million to implement the FARMER program statewide, and is administered similar to the Carl Moyer Program, which funds the replacement of older engines.
While the FARMER program would help local farmers purchase new harvesting equipment, heavy-duty trucks, agricultural pump engines, tractors, and other equipment used in agriculture operations, the board rejected the money, in part, because the program mostly benefits the larger farming operations in the county, whose equipment more easily meet the hours of usage requirement (as opposed to tracking mileage) and have the cash to invest in the 35 percent share of cost.
“I just don’t know how I feel about this stuff,” said Supervisor Merced Corona, who typically opposes any government perk, including tax breaks, which benefit farmers.
Evans typically opposes state’s climate change regulations, in general.
There was no discussion by the board on the impact the rejection of the money would have on local farm equipment dealers, where such equipment is generally purchased, and it’s trickle-down effect, but Hinton said the FARMER program does do what it is intended to do, regardless of who receives the benefit, in that it reduces harmful pollutants that can affect respiratory health and achieves desired emission reductions from the agriculture sector.
Hinton added that participation in the program also shows the California Air Resources Board that Colusa County is doing its part to reduce greenhouse gasses.
“It’s a fair enough program and it’s a popular program with the constituents within the county,” Hinton said. ■