The very thing that makes the arid West a great place to grow cotton also makes it subject to air quality issues that are not always encountered in other parts of the Cotton Belt.
The cotton industry in California, Arizona and New Mexico faces in-creased regulations from county, state and federal officials trying to mitigate dust and airborne particles endemic to arid regions. This year, much of Pinal County, the largest cotton-producing county in Arizona by volume, was declared a non-attainment area for particulate matter 10 microns or less (PM10). This concerns the county’s producers and ginners.
Greg Sugaski, Arizona Operations Manager for Anderson Clayton and the current Arizona Cotton Ginners Association president, expressed his concern for the declaration.
“It makes it more difficult for us to do business,” he says.
Sugaski does not believe that gins are a big contributor to the PM10 problem, but the regulations may require that gins build dust houses at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars for each gin.
Tackling The Problem
While ginners and producers in Pinal County struggle with new mandates, Maricopa County, Ariz., has managed its non-attainment status by developing best management practices to show officials that they are working hard to mitigate the dust issue.
Art Heiden, a producer in Buckeye, Ariz., shuts down his tractors during high winds, waters down farm roads and has posted a 20-mile an hour speed limit on his unpaved farm roads.
Gins and farms in that county must make sure that mud and dirt are not tracked out onto the paved roads. Producers like Steve Sossaman of Queen Creek, Ariz., have had issues with contract harvesters tracking out mud on to paved roads. “It must be cleaned up immediately,” he says. County enforcement officials have fined Sossaman even though the track-out source was not from his operation.
Familiar Issue For Farmers
Stan Creelman of Mid-Valley Cotton Growers uses a handbook of specifications for tracking emissions from each source point in his gins. The state requires a 20 percent or better opacity reading from the gins’ stacks during operation, half the level of the current standard in Pinal County, Ariz.
Ed Hughes of the USDA-ARS South-western Cotton Ginning Research Laboratory in Mesilla Park, N.M., is confident that gin emissions are a very small source of the air quality problem. The lab is participating in a sampling study measuring particulate matter smaller than 2.5 microns (PM2.5) as a percentage of PM10.
The study was generated when California implemented a PM2.5 standard, which stated that PM2.5 is as much as 50 percent of PM10.
“The preliminary numbers look good,” says Hughes, who believes that when the study is complete the percentage will be significantly less than the California standard.
On the farm, SJV producers are required to track nitrogen oxide, diesel and PM10 levels to fulfill regulations that focus on three general sources of air pollution – ozone, particulate matter and greenhouse gasses.
It is the task of the California Cotton Ginners and Growers Association to track legislation and regulations that impact California’s cotton industry.
Brent Murphree is the Cotton Board’s Regional Communication Manager for the West. He resides in Maricopa, Ariz.
|This material is the intellectual property of One Grower Publishing and is protected by copyright and other intellectual property laws. Information received through this website may be displayed and/or printed for your personal, noncommercial use only. You may not reproduce or retransmit the materials, in whole or in part, in any manner, without the prior written consent of One Grower Publishing. Any reproduction of this material, without One Grower Publishing's prior written consent, is strictly prohibited and will be punished according to the laws in effect.