Air District Ups Incentives to End Burning

Air district incentives to end ag burning directed 30% of the funding to smaller agricultural operations, defined as less than 500 acres (photo by C. Parsons.)

Recognizing the need to develop alternatives to agricultural open burning, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District is providing enhanced financial incentives to chip trees and vines for soil reincorporation or land application.

To date, the incentive program has provided $25.9 million in executed vouchers, 49,700 acres of orchard and vineyard removals with 1,378,000 tons of ag material processed. The average grant was $25,534 for 49 acres removed.

This incentive program comes with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) requirement to phase out all open burning by January 1, 2025. Smaller agriculture operations are given the most flexibility and longest time to adjust to the phase-out. The incentives, the board reports, are due to limited availability and high cost of alternatives. The board also reported there is a need to address barriers to new bioenergy solutions.

The state’s 2020-22 budget includes $180,000,000 for alternatives to open burning in the San Joaquin Valley. A total of $178,200,000 is available to the district, with the remainder reserved by CARB for administrative purposes.

The district said the new state funding will reduce the high cost of deploying new alternatives to open burning and increase capacity for chipping and other alternatives.

At an Almond Alliance hosted webinar listing incentive program enhancements, the district said the current $60,000-per-year funding cap has been eliminated to ensure broad access.

With the significant increase in funding and to facilitate meeting the phase-out deadlines, the district said that 30% of the funding has been dedicated to smaller agricultural operations, defined as less than 500 acres. The district also announced that it would provide an additional $100 per acre for each incentive category to operations of less than 100 acres. It has also expanded options for disposition of chipped material to include other beneficial re-use outside of soil reincorporation or land application. Those potential options include mulch, composting and land application near roadways for dust suppression. Any combustion process including biomass or air curtain burners is not allowed.

The proposed incentive amounts for orchards are $600 per acre for chipping and soil incorporation, $300 per acre for chipping without soil incorporation and $600 per acre for chipping and off-site beneficial use.

The district is also launching an expanded program to include a new option for purchase of chipping and grinding equipment. Any funded equipment is to be used specifically and solely for expanding San Joaquin Valley chipping capacity.

For more information on the program, go to and click on the ag burning option.