Members of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Air Quality Task Force (AAQTF) were informed of an important funding source available to retrofit or replace aging agricultural equipment and about the resulting emissions benefits during a presentation and its meeting in Raleigh, NC on September 29th.

The AAQTF is a Federal Advisory Committee made up of 25 members representing academia, farmers/producers, business, lobbyists, and environmentalists.  Their function, as mandated by Congress, is to provide recommendations to the Secretary of Agriculture and ensure that that information used by regulatory agencies (like EPA) for policy, guidance and regulation development, is based on sound science.

Dawn Fenton, the Director of Policy for the Diesel Technology Forum, the nation’s leading advocate for the use of clean diesel technology, made a presentation to the task force to review alternative retrofit strategies and their relative cost-effectiveness.

“Agricultural equipment is significantly different from on-road or even other off-road diesel vehicles.  As a result, solutions that might make sense in those sectors might not be cost-effective or even possible in the agricultural world,” Fenton told AAQTF.

Over the last several decades, Fenton told the council, the growth in demand for smaller tractors has far outpaced that of larger 4WD equipment.  According to the Agriculture Equipment Manufacturers, 90% of the tractors in California are less than 100 hp.  These smaller tractors have limited space for additional exhaust control devices, creating challenges for their installation.  Similar to the construction industry, there can be issues with operator visibility and heat generation which have safety implications. 

In addition to their size, Fenton said, the other critical consideration for many agricultural tractors is their age.  Many farmers are still using tractors from the 1970s and 1980s.  Those manufactured prior to 1991 offer no retrofit option other than retirement and replacement due to the structural nature of the engines within the equipments.  And since these are the oldest and highest emitting machines, this provides an optimal solution, from both an air quality and fuel economy standpoint.

Fenton told the committee one other common retrofit option being used with agricultural equipment is a repower - actually replacing an older installed engine with one at a higher tier level with lower emissions.  While this is a reasonable option which usually offers efficiency as well as emissions reduction benefits, the cost-effectiveness can vary, depending upon the age and usage of the equipment.  In some cases, the cost of a repower can represent more than 70% of a machine’s residual value.  In such cases, it may be more beneficial to buy a new tractor with the latest emissions and safety features, particularly if incentive funding is available, Fenton said.

“The Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) is a dedicated retrofit funding program which has remained largely untapped by the agricultural community,” Fenton said, adding that DERA is “quite generous” in its funding, providing 100% funding for exhaust control retrofits, 75% for repowers and 25% for new equipment purchases. 

“Why not take advantage of a 25% off sale?” Fenton asked.

“The problem with DERA funding is that it is terribly oversubscribed,” Fenton added.  She noted that EPA received more than $570 million worth of requests for the $84 million available in the national funding assistance program in FY09 and FY10. In addition, the EPA estimates that more than $1 billion in quality, unfunded applications remain. 

DERA’s other challenge is that the program’s authorization expires at the end of FY2011. However, industry, environmental and public agencies are working with U.S. Senators George Voinovich (R-OH) and Thomas Carper (D-DE) in an effort to extend the program for another five years.

Until then, the agency has one last solicitation for $60 million that is due to be announced on November 1st.  The Diesel Technology Forum is holding a webinar with EPA on Tuesday, October 5th to provide insight and guidance on the program, along with tips for putting together a competitive application.  Those unable to participate in the webinar will be able to download a recorded version from

Fenton said that in addition to DERA, farmers can also get funding to offset retrofit costs through the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP).  In the 2008 Farm bill, a new Air Quality Initiative was adopted under EQIP’s Conservation Innovation Grants Program which provides $37.5 million annually for a competitive grant program for projects in PM and NOx non-attainment counties. 

Additional farm sector clean diesel resources on retrofit technology, funding, renewable fuels and off-road diesel powered equipment can all be found at


The Diesel Technology Forum is a non-profit national organization dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of diesel engines, fuel and technology. Forum members are leaders in clean diesel technology and represent the three key elements of the modern clean-diesel system: advanced engines, vehicles and equipment, cleaner diesel fuel and emissions-control systems.  For more information visit