Passed back in 1990, the Clean Air Act established nationwide standards to improve the quality of the air we breathe. There are areas across the country that do not yet meet those standards, created to address human health needs. The previous Farm Bill included provisions that offer federal assistance to ag producers to address air quality concerns and help meet federal, state and local regulatory requirements. According to Ivan Dozier, state conservationist for Illinois’ Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the agriculture community in Illinois can help address local and regional air quality issues and make improvements.
“NRCS has a special initiative that allows farmers to reduce contributions to particulate matter and the formation of ozone. This effort can really have an impact on improving air quality throughout the region,” Dozier said.
The Air Quality Initiative for 2013 is now open for sign up in 39 Illinois counties designated with a high priority need to address requirements of the Clean Air Act amendments. Solutions for on-farm air quality issues are available through more than 40 different conservation practices and NRCS’ Environmental Quality Incentives Program, or EQIP. A number of Illinois counties are eligible for this special technical and financial assistance. Counties are organized as primary and secondary priority:
Primary counties – Cook, DuPage, Grundy, Jersey, Kane, Kendall, Lake, LaSalle, Madison, McHenry, Monroe, Randolph, St. Clair and Will.
Secondary counties — Boone, Bond, Bureau, Calhoun, Clinton, DeKalb, Greene, Jackson, Henry, Kankakee, Lee, Livingston, Macon, Macoupin, Marshall, Mercer, Moultrie, Montgomery, Perry, Piatt, Putnam, Rock Island, Washington, Whiteside and Woodford.
Eligible producers for this Air Quality Initiative include those who own land in agricultural or forest production or those engaged in livestock, agricultural or forest production located on eligible land and that have an existing air quality related natural resource concern. Eligible land includes cropland, rangeland, pastureland, private non-industrial forestland, and other farm or ranch lands.
According to Dozier, “There are many popular conservation practices used in Illinois that will directly or indirectly benefit air quality concerns. This includes management changes or simple options like establishing cover crops, planting windbreaks, or using nutrient management.” To access a complete list of eligible air quality improvement practices or to learn about the specific air quality resource concerns identified in Illinois, visit http://www.il.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/AIR/index.html
Applications for the EQIP Air Quality Initiative are accepted on a continuous basis throughout the fiscal year, however, NRCS has established specific dates where eligible applications will be evaluated, ranked, and approved for funding. For Fiscal Year 2013, NRCS has established the following application deadlines: Jan. 18, March 15, and May 17, 2013. For more details regarding eligibility and application requirements, contact your local County USDA Service Center.