(Sept. 26) SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Five new state laws will soon force California growers to follow federal air quality regulations, which at first will come in the form of permit fees.

The laws aim to alleviate air quality problems in the San Joaquin Valley, according to a news release.

Title V of California’s Clean Air Act previously prohibited state air districts from requiring permits for “any equipment used in agriculture operations in the growing of crops or the raising of fowl or animals.”

Now, San Joaquin Valley growers will be required to earn permits from the Fresno-based San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District. These permits will be required for the use of irrigation pumps, trucks, tractors and other harvest equipment.

The new laws mandate that growers register their equipment. Age of machinery and frequency of use will likely determine permit costs, said Jerry Martin, spokesman with the California Air Resources Board.

Fees had not been determined the week the bills were passed, said Janelle Schneider, public education representative for the air pollution control district.

California Gov. Gray Davis signed the legislation into law the fourth week of September. State Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter, wrote the bills.

The valley is rated second in the nation in air pollution, falling behind Los Angeles, Martin said. He said one in six of the children living in Fresno have asthma.

“No other state has enjoyed the exemption of agriculture that California has for 50 years or so,” he said.

Acquiring permits, though, will do nothing to help clean California’s air, said Manuel Cunha, president of the Nisei Farmers League, Fresno.

Farming operations, he said, are being rated on their potential to emit ozone-harming pollution on a constant basis, while he said most farming operations might only operate at full capacity during three months out of a year.