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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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National Program 203: Air Quality
Action Plans
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NP 212 Climate Change, Soils, and Emissions Action Plan 2009-2013 (pdf)


2004-2008 Action Plan-- NP 203 Air Quality


'Air quality' refers to the combination of the physical-chemical-biological constituents of air masses in the lower atmosphere with which humans, animals, plants, lands, and water bodies of the earth interact. These constituents may take the form of solids (such as suspended particulates), gases (such as oxygen and nitrogen), and liquids (such as water droplets or vapor). We use the term 'air quality' to refer to the state of air with reference to its ability to maintain a high level of human health as the first priority with secondary priorities associated with animal and environmental health. Air quality affects and is affected by human, plant, and animal activities, including life functions. The sweep of winds and the exchange of gases, liquids, and solids between air masses and land and water surfaces affect air quality.

Air quality has both local and global contexts. Odors emitted by a localized source, for example, may be readily detectable by humans within a relatively short distance as the compounds that are identified by the nose become dispersed. On the other hand, particulates of very small size may enter intercontinental air streams and travel around the globe, sometimes for years, as is exemplified by colorful sunsets that follow periods of intense volcanic activity.

Agriculture is a necessary human activity that interacts with air; it benefits from good quality air, and it contributes air pollutants. Agriculture needs air that is free of excessive amounts of such constituents as ozone, dust, suspended pesticides, and odors. But agriculture may also contribute these substances to the air in quantities that are offensive or even threatening to human and environmental health in downwind areas.

The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) has developed an Air Quality National Program because it believes that many problems associated with air quality degradation by agriculture can be reduced or eliminated through research to understand polluting processes and application of that understanding to develop solutions. Similarly, it believes that air pollution impacts on agriculture can be resolved through research and development.

To read or download the complete 2004-2008 report, click here


Last Modified: 10/28/2008
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