Farm energy audits

From contributed reports
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced an initiative to help agricultural producers trim their energy costs. State Conservationist Jack Bricker says the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is providing $2 million for on-farm energy audits in 29 states, including Virginia.

NRCS, in partnership with USDA Rural Development, will implement this energy conservation and efficiency initiative that is available for dairy, beef, poultry, swine and other agricultural operations. Audits will be individually tailored to each farm’s primary energy uses such as milk cooling; irrigation water pumping; heating and cooling of livestock production facilities; manure collection, transfer and application; grain drying, and similar common on-farm activities.

Producers will receive energy audit evaluations through NRCS and could potentially receive assistance with implementation of energy conservation and efficiency measures through Rural Development.

The process begins with the short-term goal of providing an on-farm energy audit to identify how operations can become more energy efficient. The audit reports are in the form of an Agricultural Energy Management Plan (AgEMP) with recommendations for cost effective actions to improve on-farm energy use. The audits specifically identify current energy use and potential savings from using more efficient equipment such as motors, fans, belts, and pumps.

Interested producers should contact their local NRCS office to apply through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Once eligibility is confirmed and the application is approved, a contract is developed. The producer can select an auditor from an NRCS-approved list and will receive NRCS reimbursement once the energy audit is complete.

Producers are responsible for all up-front costs but will be reimbursed an estimated 75 percent of the typical cost to conduct an audit for a farm of their size (90 percent for historically under-served farmers based on estimated average costs of an audit).

Reimbursement rates may range from $450 for limited scope audits to $3,150 for comprehensive reviews of larger operations.

Energy audit funds are available on a first-come, first-served basis, so don’t delay in contacting your local NRCS office to get started. Program information is available www.va.nrcs.usda.gov, or contact Laurette Tucker, rural business specialist, at 804-287-1594 or laurette.tucker@va.usda.gov.

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