NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - It won't be long at all before you start seeing tractors in fields. They'll be used for everything from cutting hay to planting crops.
What you're unlikely to see in the newer tractor models is black smoke coming from the exhaust. Environmental regulations have led to cleaner diesel engines. However, there are some pros and cons to the changing technology.
"Those emissions that we used to see that we thought was pretty cool on some of the old stuff is not necessarily desirable," said Andy Jarvis, the manager of Fish and Still.
Now consumers will find more diesel-powered tractors and construction machines with cleaner operating, fuel efficient engines that meet Environmental Protection Agency Tier four standards.
"Tier 4 would be the final stage of the requirements the government has put out there for emissions control," Jarvis said.
Tier 4 requires parts like as specially engineered filters that automatically begin a cleaning cycle.
Burns off all the carbon and soot and burns off all the contaminants out of the carbon and soot that's in there," said Jimmy Gillham, a corporate service manager.
Those contaminants are the same fine particles linked to heart attacks, respiratory disease and climate change. The standards are good for the environment, but tough on the pocket book.
"The cost of the engine increased the overall cost of the tractor between 12 and 14 percent," Jarvis said.
Farm equipment can range from tens of thousands of dollars to several hundred thousand dollars.
As expected, older models with less-expensive engines are in high demand.
"We're getting to the point we only have a handful left," Jarvis said.
Other drawbacks are differences in upkeep and repairs.
"Where we used to work on stuff as we call the old shade tree type philosophy, now it's more of a high-tech philosophy that we're having to get into when we make these repairs," Jarvis said.
Initially, tractor buyers may balk at the changes, but eventually the mandates will become the norm.
Tractor buyers should ask if the model they are considering is equipped with the newer, cleaner engines. Manufacturers are allowed to place non-conforming engines into newer models in order to reduce any surplus inventories
In anticipation of the EPA mandates manufacturers built a large quantity of non-conforming engines to use up. The strategic move created competition and kept costs down for consumers.