The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District is urging local farmers to plan for open burning phase-out requirements for the burning of woody waste from orchard and vineyard removals.

In addition, farmers are urged to take advantage of the Alternatives to Agricultural Open Burning Incentive Program to assist with the processing of vineyard and orchard removals through non-burning alternatives.

The program is available to growers throughout the Valley, with funding available to smaller farms.

“As a second-generation Valley grower, I understand the difficulties faced by growers in responding to the drought and many other challenges, and the critical importance of transitioning to new and more sustainable practices,” said District 2 Stanislaus County Supervisor Vito Chiesa, who serves as chairman of the Valley Air District Governing Board. “The Valley Air District is here to assist growers in responding to these challenges.”

As part of ongoing clean air efforts in the San Joaquin Valley, the Valley Air District, in collaboration with California Air Resources Board, has adopted a new strategy for phasing-out the remaining agricultural open burning of woody waste from orchard and vineyard removals by the end of 2024.

The new strategy provides for a rapid transition away from open burning while providing flexibility to smaller farms to adjust to phase-outs at a slower pace. State funding is available to assist in reducing the high costs associated with new alternatives.

“Working with Valley growers, communities, and state partners, the San Joaquin Valley is once again demonstrating unique leadership in tackling air quality and climate challenges through the only-of-its-kind strategy to eliminate open burning of orchard and vineyard removals,” said Samir Sheikh, Executive Director and Air Pollution Control Officer of the Valley Air District. “We strongly urge growers, especially smaller farming operations, to carefully plan for these new requirements and take advantage of new resources for new alternatives that help with our air quality challenges and also provide significant additional crop and carbon reduction benefits.”

Since adoption of the new phase-out requirements, the San Joaquin Valley has seen a tremendous reduction in open burning through the adoption of new practices and is on track to achieving a 90 percent reduction by the end of this year.

In related news, the Valley Air District will receive $750,000, as part of Assembly Bill 836, to create a network of clean air centers that provide vulnerable segments of the community relief from wildfires and other smoke events. 

The guidelines established by the California Air Resources Board provide the Valley Air District with resources to assist in creating clean air centers (similar to cooling centers) at schools, community centers, senior centers, athletic centers, libraries, and other public accessible buildings that would most effectively protect vulnerable populations.