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Farming Counties Brace For New Air Quality Rules

Along Highway 99 through the San Joaquin Valley heartland of California, farmers and dairy operators are finding themselves in a role once considered unthinkable -enlisted in an increasingly urban region´s war on air pollution.

The traditional hands-off policy ends July first. That´s when an estimated 1,350 farms and dairies will face regulation by the eight-county San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control Disrict.

Thousands more valley farms along a 270-mile corridor must also begin controlling dust and other small particles that have made the valley´s so-called “particulate” pollution the nation´s third worst – behind Los Angeles and Phoenix.

Air pollution officials consider farms and dairies responsible for 26 percent of the region´s smog-producing emissions and 51 percent of the dust and particulates that have given the San Joaquin Valley the nation´s highest asthma rate.

Farms and dairies that produce more than 12-and-a-half tons annually of the gases that contribute to smog must apply by Thursday for local air quality permits. They must also pay hundreds of dollars in annual fees and begin accounting for the air pollution produced by their farms and dairies.

Officials say it´s the first time U.S. farmers have been regulated for air pollution.