Agricultural producers face regulatory pressures related to air quality. NIFA seeks to assist these producers by providing sound science applications to protect the environment while maintaining a viable production system. Research activities develop emission data and improve measurement, control, and transport of odor, gases, and particulate matter. Outreach activities include transferring technologies and best practices to producers and regulators to reduce pollutants and greenhouse gases.
Agricultural operations can be significant sources of odors and PM-10 (particulate matter less than 10 microns). Title V of the 1990 Clean Air Act requires owners of all major sources of air pollution to obtain an operating permit describing each source's pollution control obligations under the Act. "Major sources" are those with potential emissions of specific air pollutants that exceed certain minimum levels. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has compiled a list of pollutants and emission thresholds associated with agricultural production. Farmers are receiving citations and fines for air violations based on limited U.S. research data.
Because of the lack of relevant research and monitoring of these pollutants from agricultural production facilities, thresholds from other industries form the basis of enforcement. To address these concerns, NIFA has created and funded a comprehensive, integrated air quality program to provide the research and outreach necessary to assist regulatory authorities in developing and implementing appropriate permit options for agricultural producers under the Clean Air Act. The research should enable the development and evaluation of emission control technologies that are both effective and economical for producers.
Developing sound research needed for agriculture in an increasingly regulated environment is a particularly challenging opportunity. The immediacy of policy and laws to protect people and resources contrasts with the much slower process of problem solving based on hypothesis testing and technology transfer. The unique mission of the NIFA Air Quality program--to foster sound science, enhance stakeholder education and competencies, and transfer this knowledge through high-impact extension programs--is critical in developing effective agricultural air quality policies.