December 1, 2011
USDA has announced the 2012 ranking dates for four major conservation initiatives administered through the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). The four initiatives are the On-Farm Energy Initiative, the Organic Initiative, the Seasonal High Tunnel Pilot Initiative, and the Air Quality Initiative.
NRCS will have three ranking periods in 2012 for the On-Farm Energy, Organic, and Seasonal High Tunnel Pilot Initiatives, which will end on February 3, March 30, and June 1. These three initiatives are offered in all 50 states, along with the Caribbean Area and the Pacific Basin.
For the Air Quality Initiative, NRCS will have two ranking periods in 2012, ending on February 3 and March 30. This initiative is only available in counties with serious air quality resource concerns in nine states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Montana, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas.
At the end of each ranking period, NRCS will evaluate all proposals submitted by that date for each initiative and determine which proposals receive funding.
Previously, each of these programs held only one ranking period per year. By establishing multiple ranking dates, producers can have more time to choose which programs to apply to, and ultimately more producers will be able to apply to each initiative.
The On-Farm Energy Initiative was initially introduced in 2010, at which point its availability was limited to 29 states. Since then, it has expanded to all 50 states and the US territories. It funds the development of Agricultural Energy Management Plans (AgEMP), or farm energy audits, which evaluate energy use on a farming operation. This includes evaluating energy use in the field, such as in farming equipment and farming processes, as well as energy use at farm headquarters, such as in buildings and facilities.
The Organic Initiative provides funds to certified and transitioning organic producers to cover conservation measures specific to organic systems. It was first offered in 2009.
On Monday, November 14, 2011, NRCS released the FY 2012 National Bulletin on the Organic Initiative. Over the past three years of the program, the Organic Initiative has obligated $36.3 million (FY 2009), $23.8 million (FY 2010), and $22.4 million (FY 2011) nationwide. More than 1,660 producers have now signed up for the Initiative. For more detailed information on the FY 2011 sign up, you can download a state-by-state breakdown of the number of acres treated, contracts signed, dollars obligated, and practices used.
The Seasonal High Tunnel Pilot Initiative was first offered in 2010. This is the first year that it will be offered as the National Seasonal High Tunnel Initiative, rather than as a practice standard through the Pilot Initiative. NRCS provides funds through the Initiative to help producers design and install high tunnels that extend the growing season without using any electrical, heating, and/or mechanical ventilation systems. In FY 2010, this initiative funded 2,395 high tunnel projects, and in FY 2011, it funded 2,035 high tunnel projects. For more detailed information on the FY 2011 sign up, you can download a breakdown of the number of high tunnels by state.
The Air Quality Initiative funds conservation measures — such as installing windbreaks, developing nutrient management practices, pumping plant engines, and waste treatment lagoons — that address air quality concerns on farming operations.