The Colusa County Board of Supervisors, sitting as the local Air Pollution Control District, last week reversed a decision they made earlier this month about participating in the 2020 FARMERS program.
Supervisor John Loudon, who originally voted not to accept the third year of funding in the amount of $657,000 on April 7, asked that the matter be brought back for reconsideration on April 21, after further reviewing the criteria for which projects are selected.
Loudon and Supervisor Merced Corona, who also rejected the funding earlier this month, said they received numerous calls from local farmers, who learned about the initial decision not to accept the money in the Pioneer Review.
“I want to thank all the farmers who gave me a call,” Loudon said. “I think I had to charge my phone three or four times to get through the day on my battery.”
The FARMERS program is designed to help the agriculture sector replace old and high polluting farm equipment, officials said.
While the grant helps local farmers purchase new harvesting equipment, heavy-duty trucks, agricultural pump engines, tractors, and other equipment used in agriculture operations, by paying 65 percent of the sticker price, the program mostly benefits larger farming operations in the county, whose equipment more easily meet the hours of usage requirement.
Loudon said his concern on that issue is what prompted him to vote no.
Since then, county officials are now looking at ways to help smaller operations participate in the program, either with money set aside or dedicated to cover administrative costs, and have contacted state officials about possible solutions.
Meanwhile, a string of community members in favor of the program phoned in for last week’s teleconference meeting to urge the board to approve the third round of funding.
“I think it’s important that we look at the best interest of the county and what benefit we can receive from it,” said Francis Hickel. “Last year, it was over a $1 million grant. That money goes out through the community and gets multiplied many of times.”
Jennifer Roberts, of Indivisible Colusa, also thanked the board for revisiting their decision.
“I am not a farmer, but I am very much in favor of this program,” Roberts said. “It does not cost the county anything, it brings money into the county, it helps farmers comply with expensive and stringent regulations, and it improves air quality. For all of us, it is a win-win for everybody.”
Theresa Bright, a director with the Farm Bureau, also spoke in favor of the program, as did several others who commented or sent letters.
Most agreed the funding helps farmers, local equipment dealers, and puts money into local government coffers by way of sales taxes.
There were no community members who opposed.
The board approved the program 3-1.
Supervisor Gary Evans, dissented for “posterity’s sake.”
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.