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Rimol blog:

US: Understanding the NRCS High Tunnel Program

In 2010, the USDA’s National Resource Conservation Service started a program called the High Tunnel Initiative that offers grants to agricultural producers who use high tunnels to grow fruits and vegetables. This program aims to encourage growers to produce sustainable agricultural products and provide citizens with quality, locally-grown food. In order to receive funding, agricultural producers can apply for grants through the NRCS, provided that they meet certain requirements.

What are the goals of the program?

The NRCS High Tunnel program started as a pilot project for the USDA to study the effectiveness of seasonal high tunnels for conservation and sustainable food production. The program is a provision of the “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” initiative under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). By allowing farmers to extend the growing season and grow certain crops in areas where they’re not typically produced, high tunnels can lower energy and transportation costs and increase sustainability.

What benefits does the program provide?

Both established farmers and beginning producers can receive grants covering the cost of up to five percent of one acre, or 2,187 square feet. Qualifications for projects vary by state, but the purpose of the high tunnel must be to extend the growing season, improve plant quality, improve soil quality and improve water quality. The USDA will provide financial assistance for the costs of purchasing and installing the seasonal high tunnel. EQIP may also provide funding for supporting practices that are required for the high tunnel program, such as runoff management, pest management, conservation crop rotation and more.

Additionally, some producers who are considered “historically undeserved” may qualify for higher rates of payment. This includes limited resource farmers, beginning farmers, socially disadvantaged producers and tribes. Payment rates for both historically undeserved and existing producers are predetermined by state. If you’re not already using high tunnels for growing, this program is a great way to garner financial support to expand your operations and start cultivating new crops.

How do I apply?

Before applying, you should consider if you would qualify for a high tunnel project grant. You must be an agricultural producer that has cultivated or sold at least $1,000 worth of products, or you must be able to show how you plan to do so once in operation. The land you plan to grow on must already be in agricultural production or at least recently cultivated, and you must meet all NRCS standards prior to installation. Because requirements are determined by state, you should visit your local NRCS office to learn more about the application process.

Rimol Greenhouses High Tunnel systems have been approved by the NRCS as qualifying EQIP structures in a number of states. If you are interested in participating in this program, please contact Rimol. - [email protected]

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