State Conservationist Russell Morgan recently announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service is currently accepting applications from Delaware farmers on three national conservation initiatives. The On-Farm Energy, Organic and Seasonal High Tunnel initiatives offer producers technical and financial assistance to address respective resource concerns.
Although applications will be taken on a continuous basis throughout the year, Delaware’s three application cutoff dates for fiscal year 2013 will end Friday, Dec. 21, and Jan. 18, and Feb. 15, 2013. The assistance, funded through the NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program, will be announced after congressional approval of the new Farm Bill.
“Even without a funding announcement to date, we’re moving forward with sign-up as if the Initiatives will continue,” said Morgan. “Farmers interested in applying should do so now. Applications are more likely to be funded when received early, since funds may not be available for later cutoff dates, due to limited funds.”
On-Farm Energy Initiative: Financial assistance is available for Agricultural Energy Management Plans or farm energy audits that assess energy consumption on an operation. The audit is required 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 poultry and livestock buildings and similar facilities to support the farm operation. AgEMPs must be completed by a certified technical service provider.
Organic Initiative: Certified organic producers and those transitioning to organic certification can receive assistance with implementation of practices suited for organic production. Applicants can apply for numerous conservation practices that benefit natural resources including cover crops, crop rotations, prescribed grazing (grazing plans, internal fencing and water facilities) and more.
Seasonal High Tunnel Pilot Initiative: NRCS helps producers plan and implement high tunnels 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. Over the past three years in Delaware, 24 producers have signed contracts totaling $141,000 to install seasonal high tunnels on their farms.
The On-Farm Energy, Organic and Seasonal High Tunnel initiatives are available in all 50 states, the Caribbean area and the Pacific Basin.
Go to www.de.nrcs.usda.gov for more information on how to apply for these initiatives or contact the nearest USDA Service Center. In Sussex County, call 302-856-3990, Ext 3; in Kent County, call 302-741-2600, Ext. 3.