More growers may qualify for hoop house help

Requirements for producers interested in signing up for seasonal high tunnels (hoop houses) have been changed to allow more applicants to qualify for USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service help.

With the change announced last week, applicants are no longer required to install hoop houses on existing cropland. The NRCS expects more growers will qualify for the pilot program, designed to evaluate the conservation benefits of growing crops using high tunnels — polyethylene-covered structures at least six feet high which modify the climate inside over the natural soil below. NRCS is providing funding for the project through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).

“We have had a tremendous outpouring of inquiries from Virginia’s producers,” says acting state conservationist Vicky Drew. “While we never discourage folks from applying for programs, we know that some producers who called may not have applied once they learned high tunnels had to be placed on existing cropland. In the interest of fairness, we are holding off processing applications until March 12 to allow producers more time to apply.”

High tunnels in the study can cover as much as five percent of one acre, roughly a 30-by-72-foot structure. The incentive payment is based on the square footage of the structure, not to exceed $4,570 per producer for EQIP participants and $5,490 for Historically Underserved (HU) clients. Growers will be required to maintain nutrient and pesticide application records during the project.

To be eligible for the program, applicants must be agricultural producers with an annual minimum of $1,000 of agricultural products and/or sales from the operation. An acceptable documentation for meeting this requirement is IRS form 1040 Schedule F. More detail at http://offices.usda.gov or www.va.nrcs.usda.gov.

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