VISALIA, Calif. — More than 6,000 Conservation Management Practices (CMP) plans to control fugitive dust on 3.1 million acres of San Joaquin Valley farmland have been submitted to the San Joaquin Valley Unified Air Pollution Control District, according to Roger Isom, California Cotton Growers Association (CCGA) vice president and director of technical services.

That number represents about three-fourths of the farms subject to CMPs in the 270-mile-long valley.

Isom admitted to growers at a series of regional CCGA meetings this spring drafting and filing these plans have been a "pain in the neck" to comply the onerous SB 700 air quality bill passed by the California legislature to clean up San Joaquin Valley air quality. SB 700 unfairly targets agriculture, according to many growers, and ignores urban dust and pollution.

However, Isom believes these plans will provide proof that SJV farmers are doing their part to clean up the air and reject bureaucratic assumption that they are not.

Some of these unproven assumptions are that farmers disk alfalfa 31 times year; do not oil or water roads; use only old two-row cotton pickers and are not practicing conservation tillage.

Farmers with 100 acres or more of contiguous farmland are required to implement CMPs for the control of PM10 emissions. The deadline for submitting the completed CMP Plans was Dec. 31.

Without these permits detailing what farmers are now doing or plan to do to reduce dust, inaccurate assumptions would remain in place.

Isom believes once the air quality districts sift thought the CMPs, agriculture will get the credit it deserves for reducing dust emissions.

SJV suggestions

The CMPs include a wide array of practices suggested by SJV producers and "not made up by someone sitting in a cubicle in North Carolina. These are things growers are doing or could do. Every CMP practical and put in place by growers. A workbook was printed and workshops held throughout the valley to walk growers through the CMP permit process. Information in the workbook includes details about how to prepare a CMP Plan, citing examples and illustrations of approved on-farm practices. In addition, the necessary CMP Plan forms are included in the workbook.

CCGA and other valley ag groups have been criticized for working with the air quality district in developing one of the most extensive air quality permit processes in the nation rather than stonewalling the process. Isom admits he and others who chose the path of least resistance have been accused of "shooting themselves in the foot" and falling into the hands of radical environmentalists. Isom believes the path chosen will prove the right one for the future of air quality regulations on farmers.

Farmers in other areas like Maricopa County, Ariz., adopted less onerous processes in an attempt to comply with clean air regulations. However, Isom says those less intrusive plans cannot quantify actual agricultural dust emissions like the SJV CMP permit process can. Maricopa County, Isom believes, remains under threat of new environmental laws or environmental lawsuits.

Isom believes once the CMPs are processed, SJV farmers can say, "We have done our part in reducing the 34 tons of particulate per day now leave us alone.

You will get the credit for reducing dust that you deserve," Isom said.

e-mail:hcline@primediabusiness.com