The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) helps private
landowners conserve our natural resources, and air resources are among those. In
fact, of the 79 resource concerns that are of focus to the NRCS 12 of them are
in air resources. These 12 can be broadly classified into six air quality and
atmospheric change issues:
- Particulate Matter (including coarse and fine particles, smoke, dust,
and off-site effects from wind erosion)
- Ozone Precursors
- Greenhouse Gases and Carbon Sequestration
Learn more about Arizona agriculture and Air Quality
Agriculture producers seeking to reduce PM10 (dust) and other forms of
air pollution can apply for help from the Natural Resources Conservation
Service (NRCS). NRCS has funding in Arizona, along with technical
expertise, that is available to farmers and ranchers to improve air
quality, through the Air Quality Enhancement Program, an Environmental
Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) from the 2008 Farm Bill.
Links on Air Quality:
Agriculture Operation Success Stories
Joharra Dairy: What it
takes to be a good neighbor
Joe Serrano discusses challenges Joharra Dairy faces with
air quality, urban sprawl and feed prices and what they are
doing to overcome them.
Joe explains all the components of the feed mixture
Joharra Dairy uses to Johnny Gomez, Casa Grande NRCS Soil
It is delicious. Be it in a
bowl of cereal, chilled in a tall glass, or in an ice cream cone, milk
is a commodity loved by many. However, as we enjoy our three servings
of dairy each day, Joe Serrano, part owner of Joharra Dairy in Casa
Grande, Ariz., is working hard to maintain healthy and productive dairy
The Joharra Dairy is located in the center of Casa
Grande. What used to be wide-open-spaces around the dairy are now
filled with housing developments. Casa Grande is growing quickly and
urban sprawl is one of the toughest challenges facing the dairy.
Odors are often the foremost complaint made by
anyone living near a dairy. Many view odor issues as a nuisance. New
regulations have been implemented to reduce air quality pollutants in
Maricopa and Pinal counties. To confront this challenge and meet these
requirements, Joharra Dairy applied for and received financial
assistance from the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Air
Quality program within the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).
This contract consists of coordinating manure removal processes and
applying soil stabilizer on dirt roads to combat dust issues on their
“It is important for us to know what it means to be
a good neighbor,” said Joe Serrano. “We aren’t perfect, but we are
constantly making it a priority.”
Joe and his partner, Daniel Nowlin, have lived in
the Casa Grande area since the 1990’s. Daniel is a third generation
farmer and had the idea of starting his own agriculture operation. He
asked his long time friend, Joe to join him. Their farming operation
progressed into a dairy business when they bought Joharra Dairy in
“I have had other business, but I love being a
dairyman. I enjoy the people and the freedom that goes with being an
entrepreneur,” said Joe.
Taking care of their cows is the most important
part of their business. Being stewards and caring for their animals is
critical because their business will only be as good as their cows are.
The arid Arizona climate is great for dairies because of the lack of
humidity that fosters bacteria. However, the heat’s intensity reaches
amazing heights throughout the middle of the summer. Large shades with
misters and fans are installed throughout the dairy. Underneath these
shades it is easily 10-15 degrees cooler.
Joharra Dairy milks 1,500 cows per day. Once in
the parlor, sanitization and milking takes five to seven minutes and
then the cows are sanitized once again before they are released. Each
cow is milked twice a day producing about 70 gallons of milk per day per
As members of the United Dairymen of Arizona (UDA),
their milk is processed and distributed within the co-op. The UDA’s
modern manufacturing facility in Tempe operates 24 hours a day, seven
days a week, and produces high, medium and low heat nonfat dry milk,
cream, butter, skim milk, condensed skim milk and lactose powder. They
provide product for a cheese manufacturer on-site. When Joharra Dairy’s
milk grades at the highest level, it is sent to Abbot Laboratories in
Casa Grande to make baby formula.
Joharra Dairy supports Arizona businesses as much
as possible. They provide manure to local farmers because it is more
economical for everyone. They also buy alfalfa from Cochise County
where they feel they can depend on great quality feed.
“By supporting local businesses, they have in turn
supported us, getting us through hard times,” Joe explained.
Challenges will continue to arise for Joharra Dairy
and dairymen alike. Urban sprawl is a reality in Arizona and across the
country that will not be going away. There is no escaping the fact that
Arizona has major air quality problems and air quality regulations will
continue to be a cost of doing business for agriculture. With the
support of fellow agriculturalists and NRCS, Joharra Dairy has the tools
to face these issues head on and succeed.
Excessive Dust is a Don’t for Dairyman
of Animal Feeding Operations (AFO) are familiar with following regulations. Now,
not only are they concerned with groundwater and surface water protection, but
they are also taking measures to protect Arizona’s air quality. Whether it is to
combat PM10 or ozone precursors, there is an entire suite of managements and
practices available to operators that can be utilized to reduce emissions that
affect air quality.
These measures can be costly to implement and maintain so producers often turn
to the United States Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation
Service (NRCS) to assist them. Through the 2008 Farm Bill, producers can receive
financial and technical assistance for air quality from the Environmental
Quality Incentive Program (EQIP), Air Quality Initiative to implement structural
and management conservation practices that optimize environmental benefits on
working agricultural land.
Robert Van Hofwegan is one of those producers that went to NRCS for assistance.
Van Hofwegan’s family has been dairying in Maricopa County for three generations
and they have seen many changes in the regulatory environment. “As we all know,
things never stay the same. This goes with government regulations too. I know
often I'm so busy just trying to run the business that things can change without
you knowing,” said Van Hofwegan. “Your local NRCS office is very helpful in
identifying areas you need to comply with and ways to get that done. They are
also very helpful in finding financial assistance in accomplishing many of these
In 2009, Van Hofwegan met with a conservation planner from NRCS to develop a
Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan (CNMP) and a Conservation Plan. As
defined by NRCS, a CNMP is a grouping of conservation practices and management
activities that, when implemented, will ensure that both production and natural
resource protection goals are achieved on an Animal Feeding Operation. A
Conservation Plan is a tool designed to help better manage natural resources and
is where alternatives are included to address resource conditions on an
operation. The goal of the CNMP is to aid Van Hofwegan in more efficiently
utilizing the nutrients in the animal waste generated on the facility, and the
conservation plan was developed to help mitigate the facility's air quality
emissions of concern.
A main issue for the dairy was their dirt roads, especially the one that adjoins
their facility and is utilized by local vehicles as a main thoroughfare. Of the
alternatives presented, Van Hofwegan selected treatment of the dirt roads and
utilization and transport of the dairy waste for his first contracts with NRCS.
As a result of these plans, Van Hofwegan treated 29,569 feet of dirt roads with
a Soil Stabilizer for Dust Control and NRCS assisted with cost share assistance.
Treating roads with a soil stabilizer can reduce PM10 and PM2.5 emissions by at
least 50%. Van Hofwegan is also approved to install 199,000 feet of High
Pressure Pipeline to deliver liquid manure from the dairy holding lagoons to
approximately 3,000 acres of cropland. Manure has valuable nutrients that crops
can utilize for their development, and by using Waste Utilization the operation
will reduce the emissions of ammonia, volatile organic compounds and oxides of
producers seeking to reduce PM10 and volatile organic compounds can apply for
help from NRCS. In 2010 NRCS had $1.8 million in Arizona for the EQIP - Air
Quality Initiative, along with technical expertise available to farmers and
ranchers to improve air quality. Approved applicants received payment for up to
75 percent of the project expense, and up to 90 percent if the applicant was
from a historically underserved group. Seven counties, which were identified as
nonattainment areas by the Environmental Protection Agency, were eligible in
Arizona for Air Quality Initiative assistance. Farmers and ranchers in Cochise,
Gila, Maricopa, Pima, Pinal, Santa Cruz, and Yuma counties were eligible. Seven
NRCS offices in Arizona helped local agriculture producers with the air quality
program: Avondale Field Office (623) 535- 5055, Casa Grande Field Office (520)
836-1960, Chandler Field Office (480) 988-1078, Douglas Field Office (520)
364-2001, San Carlos Field Office (928) 475-2692), Tucson Field Office (520)
292-2999, Willcox Field Office (520) 384-2229, and Yuma Field Office (928)
782-0860. AFO operators and all agricultural producers can get assistance to
conserve Arizona’s natural resources, including air, through the regular EQIP
signup which has approximately $10-15 million available each year. Applications
for EQIP are accepted on a continuous basis, and NRCS encourages producers to
apply for planning and financial help throughout the year.
The NRCS mission is to help people help the land, and participation in NRCS
programs is voluntary. While working with the NRCS programs, Van Hofwegan
has developed a good working relationship with his field office staff. “Applying
for funding with NRCS can take some time in getting all the info together but
once completed and approved, it is very smooth,” said Van Hofwegan. Van Hofwegan
and his wife have three children and reside in Buckeye, Arizona.
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