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California Air QualitySan_Joaquin_Valley

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is dedicated to implementing conservation practices that improve air quality.

California is home to some of the worst air quality in the nation with much of the state not meeting federal ambient air quality standards for one or more air pollutants. The air pollutants posing the greatest health and welfare concerns in California's ambient air are ozone and particulate matter.

In addition, the State of California has adopted aggressive environmental and energy goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing renewable energy production, and lessening reliance on petroleum fuel in California.

Through effective conservation planning, the NRCS can assist landowners and producers with identifying conservation alternatives to help them decide how to best address the air quality resource concerns on their lands. Once decisions are made, NRCS technical assistance can support the implementation of the planned conservation practices, operation and maintenance agreements, and standards and specifications. Financial assistance may also be available to eligible participants through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), particularly to air quality projects located within areas federally designated as “Nonattainment” of a National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS).

Administered by the NRCS, EQIP was reauthorized in the Farm Bill and awards payment assistance to projects that provide significant environmental benefits. The practices eligible for payment assistance and the environmental score is calculated based upon ranking criteria developed with input from Local Work Groups, Stakeholders, and the State Technical Advisory Committee (STAC).

NRCS Resource Concern Information

Note: Some of the following documents require Acrobat Reader.

NRCS Special Environmental Concerns

NRCS Fact Sheets on Air Quality and Animal Operations

On-Line Air Quality Tools

  • National Air Quality Site Assessment Tool (NAQSAT)        
    Developed for livestock producers, their advisors, and conservation planners, this tool identifies and qualifies several mitigation strategies for reducing emissions of ammonia, methane, volatile organic compounds, hydrogen sulfide, particulates, odors, and nitrous oxide from livestock and poultry operations. NAQSAT provides a qualitative report for evaluating and prioritizing conservation practices for improve the air quality resource concerns. NRCS National Instructions, Title 190, Part 309 offers additional guidance for planners using NAQSAT for conservation technical assistance.
  • Air Management Practices Assessment Tool (AMPAT)    
    Developed by Iowa State University, provides an objective overview of mitigation practices best suited to address odors, air pollution emissions, and dust from livestock and poultry operations.  Practices are divided by animal housing, manure storage and handling, and land application. The tool qualifies a conservative estimate of the relative costs and effectiveness of each practice for reducing ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, dust, odors, volatile organic compounds, and greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Wind Erosion Prediction System (WEPS)
    The WEPS model is designed to be used under a wide range of land-use conditions by simulating weather, field conditions, crop growth, hydrology and wind erosion conditions.  Saltation, creep, suspension, and PM10 components of wind erosion are also simulated and reported for a crop system.
  • COMET-Farm™    
    A whole farm and ranch carbon and greenhouse gas accounting system.  This tool guides the user by describing current farm and ranch management practices and examines alternative future management scenarios. Once complete, a report may be generated comparing the carbon changes and greenhouse gas emissions between current management practices and future scenarios.
  • COMET-Planner™    
    An evaluation tool designed to provide approximate greenhouse gas mitigation potentials for NRCS conservation practices. Carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas emission reduction values are intended to provide generalized estimates of greenhouse gas impacts of conservation practices for initial planning purposes. Those interested in conducting more detailed analysis of on-farm greenhouse gas emissions are encouraged to utilize COMET-Farm.
  • COMET-Energy™
    A stand-alone tool that allows the user to calculate the greenhouse gas emission reductions based on anticipated fuel savings.
  • COMPOST-Planner    
    This tool estimates the net greenhouse gas benefits of specific compost application practices to California cropland and grasslands.  The tool applies a quantification methodology  developed by the California Air Resources Board for the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Healthy Soil Incentive Program.
  • NRCS Practice Standards for Greenhouse Gas Emission Reductions and Carbon Sequestration
    A qualitative ranking of which Conservation Practice Standards can be effectively applied to the Greenhouse Gas and Carbon Sequestration Resource Concern. This ranking quickly and easily allows a conservation planner to assess how well a given practice may perform either reducing GHG emissions or promoting carbon sequestration.
  • USDA Climate Hubs Tool Shed
    Provides information on tools from across the country that can assist agricultural and forest land managers in adapting to climate variability and change. Users may search the database for tools that are relevant to climate, as well as tools that assist in managing factors that interact with climate, such as drought, pests, and extreme weather.
  • Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) Emissions From Pesticides   
    The California Department of Pesticide Regulation developed regulations for reducing VOC emissions from the use of agricultural pesticides. This website provides calculators for estimating VOC emissions from fumigant and non-fumigant pesticide use.
  • EPA Region 9 Air Quality Maps
    Offers links to air quality maps of the Pacific Southwest Region that illustrate the level of air quality in specific areas, the borders of local air permitting agencies, and the locations of specifically protected federal lands.

Information on Air Quality

  • USDA Air Quality Task Force
    The Agricultural Air Quality Task Force promotes USDA research efforts and identifies cost-effective ways the agriculture industry can improve air quality. It also helps better coordinate activities and resources among USDA agencies and other federal partners, such as the Environmental Protection Agency. Directed by the Chief of the NRCS, members are comprised of USDA employees, industry representatives, and experts in the fields of agriculture and air quality. The task force is re-charted every two years.
  • West National Technical Support Center - Air Quality and Atmospheric Change Team
    The NRCS Air Quality and Atmospheric Change Team located at the West National Technical Support Center in Portland, Oregon is responsible for integrating air quality and atmospheric change science and technology into relevant NRCS conservation programs and operations.
  • NRCS Air Quality and Atmospheric Change Training
    On-line NRCS training courses and webinars on air quality and greenhouse gas resource concerns and conservation practices. The four on-line courses are available to the public, but exams and certification of completion are only available through the AgLearn versions of these courses.  The recorded webinars are accessible and available.
  • US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – Region 9 Air Programs    
    Federal air quality programs serving Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Pacific Islands, and Tribal Nations.
  • EPA National Agriculture Center
    The Ag Center brings together regulatory and non-regulatory agriculture-related information in regards to pesticides, animal manure management, sustainability, climate change, and partnerships.  A free news service is also available that provides subscribers with the latest ag-related news from EPA.
  • EPA Green Book of Nonattainment Areas for Criteria Pollutants    
    Identifies the areas of the country where air pollution levels persistently exceed the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).
  • California Air Resources Board (ARB)    
    The ARB is the lead air quality agency in California responsible for attainment and maintenance of the state and federal air quality standards, California climate change programs, and motor vehicle pollution control. It oversees county and regional air pollution management programs.
  • California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) – Air Programs    
    The DPR is responsible for preventing health problems caused by pesticide air toxins and for reducing pesticide emissions that contribute to air pollution in California.
  • California Air Quality Districts    
    A directory of the 35 air quality districts in California responsible for regulating stationary, indirect and area sources of air pollution within a region, county, portion of a county, or group of counties.
  • AirNOW    
    Air Quality Index (AQI) forecasts and real-time AQI conditions in California and other regions of the country are easily accessible.

Information on Climate Change

  • NRCS and Climate Change
    Resources, services and tools on climate change that include COMET-Farm, the Rapid Carbon Assessment, the GHG and Carbon Sequestration Tool, and the Conservation Innovation Grants addressing greenhouse gas mitigation and carbon sequestration opportunities.
  • NRCS National Weather and Climate Center
    Develops and transfers water and climate information and technology that support natural resource conservation. Snow and water data are updated on a daily and hourly basis.
  • USDA Climate Change Program Office (CCPO)
    Through the USDA Office of the Chief Economist, the CCPO ensures that USDA is a source of objective, analytical assessments of the effects of climate change and proposed response strategies both within USDA and its partners.
  • USDA Regional Climate Hubs
    The USDA Regional Climate Hubs deliver information to farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to help them adapt to climate change and weather variability. The Hubs build capacity within USDA by providing information and guidance on technologies and risk management practices at regional and local scales.
  • ARB Climate Change Programs    
    The ARB is the lead agency in California for implementing the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB32).  This website has information over the implementation of California’s AB32 Scoping Plan.


Ted Strauss, California Air Quality Conservationist
Phone: 559-490-5129



Updated: 09/04/2018