Farm Air Quality Talks Get Underway Amidst New Pollution Findings

Farm Air Quality Talks Get Underway Amidst New Pollution Findings

The EPA next week will convene an Agricultural Air Quality Task Force this week in the town that, according to a new study by the American Lung Association, is among the 10 most-polluted cities in the nation.

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The Task Force will look into ways that farm operations can minimize air pollution and toxic emissions -- including how to use funding from a $10.9 million assistance package to help achieve those goals.

"This is a pivotal time for agriculture and air quality," says Ed Burton, State Conservationist of the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service in California. "The focus on energy and climate is creating more challenges -- and more opportunities -- for agriculture than ever before. At this meeting we will address technical issues associated with agriculture and forestry."

Appropriately enough, the meeting convenes in one of the cities most affected by these pollution issues. According to the American Lung Association's 2009 "State of the Air" report, Fresno is the second most polluted city in the U.S. for short-term particle pollution, and seventh most pollution nationwide for overall pollution.

Five California cities made the list this year, four of which are farming-intensive cities located in the state's Central Valley farm region. Bakersfield landed at the top of the list for the first time, with Visalia, Hanford, and Fresno also in the top 10. Los Angeles is the remaining California city on the list, in third place overall.

Farming is a leading cause of the overall pollution in these farm cities, including emissions from diesel-powered farm machinery, dust kicked up by those machines, and residues of pesticides and herbicides. But for these California cities, geography plays a major part in leading to accumulations of toxins: the coastal -- and farm-intensive -- city of Salinas, Calif., ranked ninth overall for best air quality.

The overall news from the American Lung Association's report is not good: about 60 percent of Americans live in areas with poor enough air quality to cause serious health problems and endanger lives. Even though many cities have made improvements in air quality in the past decade, the report finds that air pollution lingers at unhealthy levels in almost every major city.

The full details of the report are online at StateOfTheAir.org. The findings of best and worst overall cities for air quality is as follows:

Ten Most Polluted U.S. Cities
1. Bakersfield, Calif.
2. Pittsburgh-New Castle, Pa.
3. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside, Calif.
4. Visalia-Porterville, Calif.
5. Birmingham-Hoover-Cullman, Ala.
6. Hanford-Corcoran, Calif.
7. Fresno-Madera, Calif.
8. Cincinnati-Middletown-Wilmington, Ohio-Ky.-Ind.
9. Detroit-Warren-Flint, Mich.
10. Cleveland-Akron-Elyria, Ohio

Ten Cleanest U.S. Cities
1. Cheyenne, Wyo.
2. Santa Fe-Espanola, N.M.
3. Honolulu, Hawaii
4. Great Falls, Mont.
4. Flagstaff, Ariz.
6. Farmington, N.M.
6. Anchorage, Alaska
8. Tucson, Ariz.
9. Bismarck, N.D.
9. Salinas, Calif.

Tractor photo CC-licensed by Flickr user ajagendorf25.