Air Resources votes to end agricultural burning in San Joaquin Valley

Local News

SACRAMENTO, Calif (KTXL) — The California Air Resources Board recently voted to phase out agricultural burning in the San Joaquin Valley region by 2025.

It’s a move the board says will improve air quality, but some in the agricultural industry say it’s a shift that will be costly for farmers.

Sprawling vineyards and orchards make up much of the landscape across the San Joaquin Valley region.

After years of harvest, when farmers can no longer use the vines or trees, they burn them to make way to reseed.

“Maybe after 20 years, 25 years they’re going to be looking at having to go ahead and replace that orchard. So it’s not something that you’re doing every year,” said Bruce Blodgett, the executive director for San Joaquin County Farm Bureau.

Blodgett is frustrated with the recent decision from CARB to phase out agricultural burns by 2025.

“So those wires, those trellises all those metal stakes that are in that field. They get intermingled and basically the vines grow into it,” Blodgett said. “Without being able to burn that, there’s no way to do it. So we’re hauling it off to a landfill is our next best option.”

An option, that he says would be costly for the 1,500 farmers he represents across the county, especially small growers.

“The state wants to put a mandate on a valley, ignoring its own responsibility for the legislation to be economically feasible alternatives, and just wants to right now, dump it all on the farmers in this valley and it’s not right,” Blodgett said.

Blodgett says if the state would have kept its promise to invest in more co-generation plants to give farmers more alternative options to burning, then the move to ban agricultural burning in the region would make more sense.

CARB says phasing out agricultural burns is a public health concern that’s about ensuring cleaner air for the valley, which he says has some of the worst air pollution in the country.

“By taking this action, we’re essentially removing the particulate emission pollution equivalent to taking 4 million vehicles off of the road, so this was a really significant action,” said Michael Benjamin, the air quality planning and science division chief for CARB.

CARB says farmers can find other cost-effective ways of removing waste.

“Chipping of wood waste and incorporation of that waste into the soil results in an increased yield. That’s up to 20% and so that increased crop yield we think can help defray the cost of more, you know, expensive ways of getting rid of this waste,” Benjamin said.

“There’s times you can burn where it won’t have the impacts on the air quality. They need to work with us rather than against us,” Blodgett said.

CARB says they are working to find the funding to incentivize farmers to use soil incorporation and steel and wire alternatives.

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