Smashing and recycling old tractors helps assure air quality benefits for the San Joaquin Valley

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FRESNO, Calif. — Farmers are well known for their ability to tinker and innovate to keep farm equipment running for years and years. But sometimes you’ve got to let the old equipment go.

Jason Weller, chief of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, with help from machinery operators at Bruno’s Iron and Metal in Fresno, recently demonstrated the process that the local agricultural and regulatory leaders have agreed upon for destroying old, higher-polluting agricultural equipment.

Together they reduced a 20,000-pound tractor to a metal cube that would never plow another field with its old, less efficient engine. Using incentive programs, farmers who agree to destroy their old equipment can replace it with the cleanest technology.

Those new engines typically run 75 percent cleaner than the old ones. Using this approach, over 3,200 California farmers have been able to reduce NOx emissions (ozone precursors) by some 3,400 tons/year since 2009 while replacing more than 3,200 pieces of high-emitting equipment.

Major improvement. This is roughly the equivalent of removing more than one million cars from California highways. About 93 percent of these reductions are occurring in the San Joaquin Valley, which has some of the most impaired air quality in the nation.

“What you’re doing here — having the farming and regulatory communities work together, ahead of regulation — to set up a framework that farmers can adopt and regulators agree provides the needed air quality improvements, is remarkable,” said Weller.

In an effort to obtain even more near-term emission reductions, the Air District is partnering with the agricultural industry on an innovative and first-of-its-kind tractor trade-up pilot program. This pilot program allows growers with the oldest tractors to trade up to newer units that are in turn being replaced by brand new tractors.

This three-way trade-up program allows growers that would perhaps not otherwise be able to participate in the program, get into newer, cleaner tractors for little cost.

Sadredin, along with Caterpillar Tractor company, presented the keys of a trade up tractor, to farmer Will Scott, who is one of the first to participate in the new version of the engine replacement program.

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