January 25, 2012 —
PENNSYLVANIA — Several major conservation initiatives offering technical and financial assistance through the United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Environmental Quality Incentives Program are currently available to farmers nationwide.
“The On-Farm Energy Initiative, Organic Initiative and Seasonal High Tunnel Pilot Initiative will assist producers in taking advantage of and benefiting from the natural resources available to them on their operations,” said Jennifer Matthews, supervisory district conservationist, NE Team 2.
Multiple ranking dates for the initiatives have been scheduled to make it easier for producers to apply. There will be three ranking periods, all ending on February 3, March 30 and June 1. At the end of a ranking period, NRCS ranks all proposals for funding consideration and notifies all applicants of the results. Contracts are then developed with selected applicants.
Contact Matthews at 570/282-8732, ext. 618 or visit www.nrcs.usda.gov  for more information.
On-Farm Energy Initiative: NRCS and producers develop Agricultural Energy Management Plans (AgEMP) or farm energy audits that assess energy consumption on an operation. NRCS then uses audit data to develop energy conservation recommendations. Each AgEMP has a landscape component that assesses equipment and farming processes and a farm headquarters component that assesses power usage and efficiencies in livestock buildings, grain handling operations and similar facilities to support the farm operation.
NRCS helps certified organic growers and producers working to achieve organic certification install conservation practices for organic production. New for fiscal year 2012, applicants will be evaluated continuously during the ranking periods.
Seasonal High Tunnel Pilot Initiative:
NRCS helps producers plan and implement high tunnels, steel-framed, polyethylene-covered structures that extend growing seasons in an environmentally safe manner. High tunnel benefits include better plant and soil quality, fewer nutrients and pesticides in the environment and better air quality due to fewer vehicles being needed to transport crops. More than 4,000 high tunnels have been planned and implemented nationwide through this initiative over the past two years.