Top EPA Officials View Ag Innovation
UC Davis event highlights pollution-cutting technologies
Capital Press California Editor
DAVIS – New John Deere tractors, an irrigation pump demonstration
and a biodiesel-sipping car were showcased today for federal and
state environmental regulators as examples of agriculture’s efforts
to curb pollution at UC Davis. The field trip to the university’s
Western Center for Agricultural Equipment came on the final day
of the annual California Biomass Collaborative and the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency’s West Coast Collaborative, which was held in
Wayne Nastri, EPA’s Region 9 administrator, said the West Coast
Collaborative was formed in 2004 to bring together public and private
sectors to accelerate air quality progress. The Davis event showcased
innovation and technology to promote air quality and other benefits.
"These technologies are not just environmentally-friendly.
They are economic, they’re efficient, and they certainly can provide
a way to reduce our dependence on foreign oil," Nastri said. "This
showcase demonstrated that by working in collaboration, we can improve
air quality, we can improve the quality of human health and the
environmental all at the same time."
Participants in the Sacramento meeting included a diverse mix
of representatives from state and local government, agriculture
and environmental groups in several states including California,
Idaho, Oregon and Washington.
Elin Miller, the EPA Region 10 administrator in Seattle, said
the West Coast Collaborative has awarded more than $12 million in
grants to support projects to reduce emissions from heavy-duty engines
and support cleaner fuels. More than $1.4 million has gone to projects
for agriculture and biofuels in the West.
"As we know, 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the
West come from mobile sources — our cars to our boats, our trucks
to our tractors," said Miller, who also owns an Oregon farm. "It
is great to see agriculture as a solution proving an improvement
to air quality and public health."
Among the projects and displays promoted at the UC Davis event
were several 7000- and 8000-series diesel-powered John Deere
Several participants climbed behind the wheel of the tractors
and posed questions to Cory Reed, manager of tractor marketing
for John Deere.
"What we’re trying to show — it is not about the tractor.
It is about how you take the requirements and put them into a package
or farming system that helps a producer be more productive and efficient," Reed
said. "The requirements are one of the standards we have to
meet, but we have to incorporate those requirements into platforms
that ultimately have to make our producers more money and that’s
our key objective."
Reed said Deere’s 8330 row crop tractor, which was first introduced
12 years ago, has had four iterations of design for emission reduction
Michael Marsh, president of Western United Dairymen, described
a Methane-to-Milk Trucks project to convert heavy duty diesel trucks
to run on methane captured from Central Valley dairy facilities.
"We have several thousand milk trucks a day that run up and
down the highways in the state of California to deliver the world’s
most nutritious, perfect food to consumers," Marsh told the
group. "We have a challenge here with air quality as to how
we can improve air quality and at the same time improve environmental
quality and we are going to do just that."
Jon Scholl, counselor to the EPA Administrator for agricultural
policy, was impressed the showcase. He expressed hope that the success
of the West Coast Collaborative will be duplicated elsewhere in
"You are starting to see the rest of the country starting
to realize the benefit of this approach," Scholl said. "When
you look at the challenges we have had over history with a lot of
the environmental issues in agriculture, this really does represent
a different kind of approach that we are trying to take to involve
people to say we are more than about regulations. That is always
going to be part of the process, but there are other ways we can
accomplish our objectives.
Officials from California State University, Fresno demonstrated
a mobile pump efficiency project designed to ensure that irrigation
pumps are using energy efficiently and minimizing air emissions.
Earlier Thursday, the group viewed a methane digester and viewed
a hydrogen-powered Mercedes-Benz car.
EPA’s Elin Miller, who formerly served as the director of California’s
Department of Pesticide Regulation, said she hopes to expand programs
between regulators and farmers in her area to promote agriculture’s
positive contributions to the environment.
"I’d like this expanded all the way up to the Pacific Northwest
and where we can really make a difference in every region of agriculture
to improve public health and the environment," she said.