Applications are being accepted for the fiscal year 2017 fiscal year high tunnel cost share program in Southeast Alaska, which is coordinated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
Applications for the FY2017 funding period are due by Sept. 1, 2016, in the USDA NRCS Juneau Field Office. However, applicants are encouraged to apply early for the program, which is part of the USDA Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).
“Since people need to verify they are eligible prior to submitting an application, I highly recommend that people interested in applying for NRCS programs get in touch with the field office by July 31,” said Samia Savell, USDA District Conservationist for the Juneau Field Office. “The Juneau Field Office now has two additional staff – Will Murray and Jodi Hastings. Any of us can answer questions or assist with the necessary application requirements.”
The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) may provide funding assistance to qualified landowners in order to offset the cost of purchasing professionally manufactured high tunnels.
High tunnels, also known as hoop houses or temporary greenhouses, extend the growing season so more food is produced before and after the traditional weather dates for growing stuff outdoors. They also can help with irrigation and drainage, and with pest control.
High tunnels are different than greenhouses in that they are passively heated by the sun, so they have lower energy costs than greenhouses. High tunnels are at least nine feet tall (an increase from six feet tall in recent years), so people can walk upright in them. Low tunnels, which usually involve some PVC pipe bent over a garden bed and covered with row cover, aren’t eligible in this program. Food in high tunnels is planted either directly into the ground or in raised beds, not in containers.
To learn more about the USDA’s high tunnel program, click here, and click here to get information about the application procedure. This link has frequently asked questions and answers about seasonal high tunnel systems for crops. This link has a fact sheet about high tunnels.
The high tunnel cost share program started a couple of years ago as a pilot program, but now is a permanent part of of the NRCS EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentive Programs). The program recently was revamped, and one major change is there now is no size restriction on the structures NRCS provides cost-sharing funds (previously it was limited to up to 2,178 square feet, or 5 percent of one acre). Also, geodesic domes are now eligible. Both the land owner and land must meet certain eligibility requirements.
Funding is provided on a reimbursable status once the high tunnel is installed and certified to meet NRCS standards. In 2012 there was just one high tunnel in Sitka, but in 2013 there were six. Other areas of the state, such as Homer, have built dozens of high tunnels through the program.
“The application itself is due by Sept. 1, but applicants must have already gotten a farm and tract number by registering with the Farm Services Agency – and it can take some time to get that done,” Savell said. This link includes a table outline of the various dates when things are due (or click the image at left).
For information regarding the NRCS technical service or program participation in Southeast Alaska, please contact Samia Savell, Will Murray, or Jodi Hastings at the Juneau field office at (907) 586-7220 or 586-7208, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here for a link to the Alaska NRCS page. Contact information for the offices in Alaska is also available at www.ak.nrcs.usda.gov/contact/fieldoffices.html.