America’s Clean Air: How Arizona Agriculture Does Its Part to Keep It That Way
America became a world leader in clean air—a well-documented but little-known fact that shocks even some of the most influential policymakers. Over the last five decades, the United States has cut harmful airborne pollutants by 78%, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
In fact, we’re the only highly populated, developed country to meet the World Health Organization’s standards for particulate matter. This bipartisan progress was made largely by free-market innovation, not by federal mandates.
And one other little-known fact, Arizona’s farmers and ranchers help keep our air clean. I know, this truth might seem surprising. Here’s how.
How Arizona Agriculture Works to Keep Our Air Clean
Of course, we’ve all had to do our part. And agriculture has been a dedicated partner in ensuring clean air for decades, certainly here in Arizona where our air is so dry and more susceptible to dust particles.
In fact, here in Arizona, farmers and ranchers’ partner with the Environmental Protection Agency and Arizona’s own Department of Environmental Quality to reduce PM10 emissions, one of the pollutants listed in EPA’s chart seen nearby.
Our climate experts tell us that the challenges here in the southwest are exacerbated by the fact that our air is so dry. Humid air helps settle dust particles; dry air does just the opposite.
The process is straightforward: Per Arizona Administrative Code, an Agricultural Best Management Practice, or BMP, is a scientifically verified technique that is practical, economically feasible and effective in reducing PM10 emissions --- dust --- from regulated agricultural activity.
In 1981, the AG Dust committee was formed to regularly assess best practices and offer additional solutions for farmers and ranchers to reduce dust and improve air quality. To this day, the committee regularly meets and assesses opportunities for the agriculture community to improve on its air quality management.
What are some of these air quality management practices?
For example, on Dairy farms, farmers will …
- Avoid running cattle
- Pile Manure between cleanings
- Provide cooling in the corral
- Install water misting systems
- Provide Covers for silage
- Cover manure hauling trucks
- Feed higher moisture feeds to dairy cattle
- Apply and maintain pavement in high-traffic areas
- Apply and maintain water as a dust suppressant
- Install signage to limit vehicle speed to 15 mph
- Restrict access to through traffic
- Plus, much more
The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality provides these best management practice strategies to not only dairy farmers but also …
- Beef Feedlots
- Swine Operations
- Yuma, Pinal and Maricopa County Crop Operations
With the operation choosing to implement all the best management practices and at a minimum 10 to 12 of the practices outlined for reducing dust on the farm. Big on farmers’ list is to avoid working fields on high wind days and stop or move to a different part of the farm to prevent creating more dust.
The biggest Polluters
Despite all these air quality efforts on the part of Arizona farmers and ranchers, we’re less than 3% of the air quality problem in Arizona. The Biggest culprits? You and me!
And while Arizona farmers and ranchers’ role in helping keep our state’s air clean despite our dry conditions might seem somewhat small in the grand picture, in the aggregate, it helps America maintain that stellar recognition we have as a nation that our air is clean.
Sources: EPA, Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, Lifepowered.org and Arizona’s Farmers and Ranchers.