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Low-Dust Harvesting Now a Conservation Management Practice


Growers required to have a Conservation Management Practice (CMP) plan in the San Joaquin Valley for dust reduction received some favorable news this month. The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (SJVAPCD) announced an update to their list of approved practices to reduce dust emissions, now including the use of low-dust harvesters. 

The SJVAPCD Conservation Management Practices, Rule 4550, was adopted in 2004. The purpose of the program is to reduce dust emissions, both PM10 and PM2.5, from agricultural sites. Growers with 100 acres or more in the district must provide a CMP plan, choosing to participate in dust-reducing practices across several categories. In April 2024, the SJVAPCD approved the addition of Low-Dust Nut Harvesters as an approved practice for the nut crops harvest category. 

Benefits of Low-Dust Harvesters 

Low-dust harvesters are designed to minimize the amount of particulate matter released into the air during the harvesting process. These machines employ advanced technologies that reduce the turbulence and agitation of soil and debris, which are primary sources of dust. The benefits of using these harvesters extend beyond regulatory compliance: 

  • Improved Air Quality: Reduced dust emissions lead to better air quality, benefiting both agricultural workers and neighbors. 
  • Enhanced Worker Health: Lower dust levels mean fewer respiratory issues and related health problems for farmworkers, promoting a safer working environment. 
  • Environmental Impact: Decreasing dust emissions helps protect the local ecosystem, including plant and animal life that can be affected by poor air quality. 
Implementation and Cost Considerations 

Growers can take advantage of low-dust harvest technology by either contracting with a custom harvester who uses the equipment or replacing a conventional harvester or sweeper they currently use. For both options, there are incentive programs available to growers. 

If a grower is interested in purchasing low-dust harvest equipment, both NRCS and the SJVAPCD offer significant cost-share assistance to help purchase the equipment: 

  • Through NRCS’s EQIP program to replace old in-use harvesting equipment, low-dust harvesters can receive up to $1,174.80 per horsepower (hp), while tractors and most other equipment can receive payments of $517.85 per brake horsepower (bhp) for 25-160 bhp and $806.60 per bhp for greater than 160 bhp. 
  • Through the SJVAPCD’s program to replace conventional harvesters or sweepers, growers can receive 50% of the equipment cost and up to a maximum of $150,000 per unit. Growers can also apply for up to five pieces of equipment. 

If growers currently use or are interested in using a custom harvester that has low-dust equipment, USDA-NRCS offers a by-acre cost-share incentive to help pay for the practice at a rate of $66.82 per acre. 

For both incentive options, applications should be submitted well in advance of using or buying the equipment, and both programs also have several eligibility requirements. Contact your local San Joaquin Valley Air District Office or local NRCS office for more information. 

Topics: Harvest