Madison, FL., January 18, 2012 – Florida agricultural producers have extra chances this year to be approved for cost share funding for the Organic, On-Farm Energy and Seasonal High Tunnel initiatives this year. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced three ranking periods for Fiscal Year 2012 for these funding opportunities; in the past there was one per year. All three initiatives offer technical and financial assistance through the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Environmental Quality Incentives Program.
“Moving to multiple ranking dates for each initiative is going to make it easier for more producers to apply and help them get started with implementing the practices they need to benefit the natural resources on their operations,” said Carlos Suarez, NRCS state conservationist for Florida. “We hope producers will visit their local USDA Service Center for more details on how NRCS can help them conserve Florida’s natural resources.”
NRCS accepts applications for financial assistance on a continuous basis throughout the year but there will be three ranking periods for the Organic, On-Farm Energy and Seasonal High Tunnel initiatives, all ending on February 3, March 30 and June 1, 2012. At the end of a ranking period, NRCS ranks all submitted proposals for funding consideration. NRCS will notify all applicants of the results of the rankings and begin developing contracts with selected applicants.
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.
Organic Initiative: 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. Applications meeting or exceeding a threshold score may be approved for an EQIP contract before the end of the ranking period. Applications rating below the threshold score will be deferred to the next period. A new threshold score will be established at the beginning of each ranking period. This new scoring process allows organic producers to implement conservation practices in a timelier manner.
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.
For additional information please contact the NRCS Office in Madison County at (850) 973-6595, Ext.3 or visit the NRCS National Web site for more information on how to apply for these initiatives.
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USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410
or call (800) 795-3272 (voice), or (202) 720-6382 (TDD).