Make a Difference: Volunteer on an NRCS Committee
The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) wants to incentivize farms towards improving their energy efficiency. Due to the success of a recent energy efficiency program in several states, NRCS offices in other states will adopt the new program for energy efficiency improvements, which will benefit grain producers via Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) funding.
The big news is that Practice 374, Scenario 33 has been added in several states, allowing NRCS payments for upgrades to grain dryers. If your on-farm energy audit recommends a new grain dryer, you will be able to apply for a payment of approximately $65/bushel/hour for a new dryer taking 10 points of moisture out of the grain. It is anticipated that those approved will collect approximately $56,000 towards a new dryer, which is even better than the typical REAP grant for grain dryers.
A second scenario that many of you have been interested in will be improved heating for farm buildings. NRCS will pay $6.66/1,000 BTU/hour of heating capacity for improvements like high-efficiency heat pumps (geothermal or air cooled). A capacity of 400,000 Btu per hour is fairly normal, so this could be a way to collect up to $2,600 beyond the rebates you will receive from the utilities or state programs in your area. Again, an on-farm energy audit would be the first step toward making this happen.
A third interesting scenario is that for variable speed controllers NRCS may pay $88 per horsepower (under Practice 374, Scenario 14). For all of you that could install variable speed on your irrigation system, this would mean a payment of $5,000 for a device that will also save you money by reducing utilities.
Of course there are rules corresponding with collection of EQIP funds. Some of the big issues you need to be aware of are:
1) You will need an energy audit done, which NRCS will usually pay for. They typically will pay for the improvements the year after they pay for the audit, so planning is required to benefit from this program. Bruce Everly, of EIM is certified in 30 states for performing these audits (Practice 128) and could visit your farm to make recommendations. Please call (317) 228-0134 for more details.
2) EQIP is a very competitive program, so applying for the funds is not the same as getting them, but for something you are planning to do anyway, it makes sense to apply, since there are no upfront costs.
It is a very positive sign that NRCS is now paying more attention to Energy. If they keep making this type of improvement, we feel that the new energy-related practices will become an important way for you to receive funds for improvements on your farms in the future.
The NRCS will be awarding over $1,300,000,000 under the EQIP program, so we strongly encourage you to become a volunteer committee member in NRCS programs. Every year, the NRCS makes decisions on how to spend money in each state and you could volunteer to sit on these influential committees to represent your community. In particular, the NRCS’s State Technical committee sets the priorities for how EQI
P money will be spent in your state. This committee is typically composed of members that are employees of the federal government and a few agricultural producers. We would strongly encourage you to volunteer to be on this committee to promote good stewardship of the land and resources. Those selecting committee members will be less impressed with someone coming in to promote their own agenda, so you will want to express your goals in a language that they will appreciate. To find out how committee members are selected in your state, the main contact would be the NRCS state conservationist. The conservationist would know how people are selected (it is different in each state) and if there are openings.
The NRCS prides itself on being a “grass roots” organization, so your participation could help you in two ways. First, it might lead to practices being developed that will actually make a difference on your farm and other farms in your community. Second, networking with the NRCS family lets you learn and serve simultaneously. Please consider volunteering your time toward this effort.
Call Bruce or Janet Everly at EIM if you have any questions: (317) 228-0134.