Farmers can tap a new grant program and replace dirty diesel farm equipment with clean electrical gear, under a new program from Monterey Bay Community Power (MBCP).

MBCP, which currently supplies electricity to Morro Bay, San Luis Obispo and other cities in SLO County, launched its “Agricultural Electrification Grant Program,” intended to support “the replacement of fossil-fuel powered equipment with new electric equipment including tractors, coolers and boilers, forklifts, light and heavy-duty vehicles, diesel powered irrigation pumps and more.”

MBCP put up $160,000 for the grant program and is looking for farmers and growers to apply for the grants, at $20,000 each in a competitive bidding process. The money will be divvied up with $80,000 set aside for Monterey County ag businesses; $40,000 for Santa Cruz County ag businesses; $20,000 for San Benito County; and $20,000 for ag businesses “within the cities of San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay.”

Finding an ag business within the City of Morro Bay might be hard to do, given that there is little ag zoned land within the City Limits, and while hemp and marijuana are hot commodities right now, the City’s cannabis ordinance prohibits growing the evil weed in town (except for personal gardens of weeden).

Nevertheless, MBCP is putting a spotlight on ag businesses because they reportedly account for 8% of California’s “Green House Gas” or GHG emissions, according to MBCP’s news release.

“Aimed at accelerating the adoption of new all-electric agricultural equipment to decrease reliance on fossil fuels,” MBCP said, “the Ag Electrification Grant Program supports local agricultural industry in the transition from fossil-fuel powered ag equipment to all-electric equipment.”

MBCP CEO, Tom Habashi, said, “MBCP continues to design and fund impactful programs that create meaningful greenhouse gas reductions and the electrification of our Central Coast. MBCP is excited to start accelerating the ag industry’s desire to reduce the climate impact their operations have locally and collectively.”

The program is expected to provide grants to a minimum of eight ag customers, up to $20,000 each, to “assist with fuel-switching or electrifying Ag equipment,” MBCP said.

Farmers are eager for cleaner technology, according to MBCP, “in order to curb their carbon emissions and improve air quality for surrounding communities and farm workers.”

This first $160,000 is just the beginning, as MBCP plans to continue the ag electrification program annually and expects next year’s program to be bigger.

Norm Groot, chairman of MBCP’s Community Advisory Council and executive director of the Monterey County Farm Bureau, said, “Supporting the agricultural sector through this grant program will be a great start for MBCP to begin to invest in electrifying our region’s ever important industry. The agricultural industry continues to implement key strategies to reduce cost and meet environmental goals and MBCP is poised to be a strategic partner to help advance them.”

This first year will be a learning process and the company said it plans to launch larger energy programs specific to the Ag sector next year, “after learning more about what electrification projects and GHG reducing efforts are most important to local Ag customers.”

For information about MBCP’s Energy Programs, see: mbcp.org/energy-programs. Applications will be accepted through August 22.