Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the expansion of a USDA initiative to help farmers and ranchers conduct energy audits and improve their overall energy efficiency. The initiative builds on the existing energy audit initiative to also help producers implement the energy conservation and efficiency recommendations that result from an energy audit.

 “On-farm energy audits are one example of the many ways the Obama administration is supporting rural communities and helping rural families thrive,” Vilsack said. “Providing producers with the opportunity to assess their energy usage and make needed improvements can save money while also benefitting the environment and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

On-farm energy audits are tailored to each agricultural operation’s primary energy uses. The audits help producers determine the amount of energy used by the entire operation and also identify short- and long-term measures producers can implement to conserve energy and achieve greater energy efficiencies. 

The On-Farm Energy Audit/Implementation Initiative is offered through USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), which provides technical and financial assistance for this purpose through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). The on-farm energy audits, which are offered as EQIP Agricultural Energy Management Plans, must be conducted by certified technical service providers. Producers who have had an on-farm energy audit conducted that meets or exceeds the criteria of an EQIP Agricultural Energy Management Plan may apply for technical and financial assistance to implement the audit’s recommendations.

Interested producers should contact their local NRCS office immediately to determine their State’s specific deadline and payment schedule. Application deadlines may be no later than Feb. 25, 2011. NRCS Service Center contact information is available on the Web at http://offices.sc.egov.usda.gov/locator/app?agency=nrcs.