Passed in 1990, the Clean Air Act established nationwide standards to improve the quality of the air.
There are areas across the country that do not yet meet those standards, which were created to address human health needs. The 2008 Farm Bill included provisions that offer federal assistance to agricultural producers to address air quality concerns and help meet Federal, State, and local regulatory requirements.
According to Ivan Dozier, assistant state conservationist for Illinois' Natural Resources Conservation Service, the agriculture community in Illinois can help address local and regional air quality issues and make improvements. "The NRCS has developed and funded an initiative that can help farmers reduce contributions to particulate matter and the formation of ozone, which will serve to improve air quality throughout the region," Dozier adds.
The Air Quality Initiative is open for signup in 13 Illinois counties designated as having a need to address requirements of the Clean Air Act amendments. Solutions for on-farm air quality issues are available through more than 40 conservation practices and NRCS' Environmental Quality Incentives Program.
Illinois counties eligible for this special technical and financial assistance are organized as first and second priority.
Primary counties: Cook, Du Page, Grundy, Jersey, Kane, Kendall, Lake, Madison, McHenry, Monroe, Randolph, St. Clair, and Will.
Secondary Counties: Boone, Bond, Calhoun, Clinton, De Kalb, Greene, Jackson, Henry, LaSalle, Livingston, Macon, Macoupin, Mercer, Moultrie, Montgomery, Perry, Piatt, Rock Island, Washington, and Whiteside.
Eligible producers for EQIP's Air Quality Initiative include persons or entities who are owners of land in agricultural or forest production or those engaged in livestock, agricultural or forest production on eligible land and that have an air quality related natural resource concern on the agricultural operation. Eligible land includes cropland, pastureland, private non-industrial forestland, and other farm or ranch lands.
According to Dozier, "There are a number of regular and popular conservation practices used in Illinois that can directly or indirectly benefit air quality concerns. These include management changes or simple options like establishing cover crops, planting windbreaks, or using nutrient management systems."
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.nrcs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb1045920.pdf.
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.
The first application deadline was Feb. 3. The second deadline is March 30.