Voluntary efforts by California farmers are making huge strides in reducing air pollution. Participating farms reduced pollutants by almost 800 tons last year. That's the equivalent of taking 170,000 cars off the road.
The USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service recruited more than 600 volunteer farmers to reduce their emissions in 2015.
The Service says it spent $19 million on the effort, and growers matched that amount to buy cleaner burning tractors and cleaner irrigation pumps. They also took steps to reduce dust and smoke.
State Conservationist Carlos Suarez says since 2009 the program has been gradually reducing air pollution. Most of the cooperating farms are in San Joaquin Valley.
"We have invested $138 million that has replaced more than 2,800 old polluting tractor engines,” says Suarez. “It's the equivalent to having removed 900,000 vehicles off California highways."
According to Suarez, a 2008 Farm Bill provided the financial assistance to accelerate the use of conservation practices on a voluntary level.