DAVIS, Calif., April 29, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in California will assist farmers to chip woody debris in fallowed orchards and vineyards impacted by California's ongoing drought. The conservation benefits associated with this practice include controlling erosion and protecting air quality.
"NRCS is committed to helping farmers and ranchers manage the impacts of California's drought," said Carlos Suarez, NRCS California state conservationist. "This initiative builds upon the $25 million we have already invested this fiscal year to apply on-farm water conservation measures across the state."
The California Air Quality Chipping Initiative, through NRCS's Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), will assist agricultural producers in chipping woody debris from removed orchards or vineyards that are no longer being irrigated due to the extreme drought conditions. These crops are located in areas where surface water deliveries are severely curtailed or suspended and no other sources of water are available for continued irrigation.
Chipping the woody debris in lieu of burning will avoid smoke emissions created from agricultural burning, reducing ozone precursors and particulate matter emissions, and reducing smoke impacts downwind. Applying the chipped debris to the fallowed orchard or vineyard land stabilizes the surface area to limit fugitive dust emissions due to wind erosion and helps improve soil health by increasing soil carbon, organic matter and water retention. The wood chips may also be hauled away to a nearby composting facility or to a biomass-fueled power plant where the chips are consumed as renewable fuel for producing electricity.
This past February, President Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a combined $25 million to help agricultural operators use agricultural water more efficiently, stabilize fallowed cropland, and protect their agricultural livelihoods for the future. NRCS California is in the process of notifying those applicants if they have been approved for funds to implement the conservation practices they applied for.
Farmers in Fresno, Kings, Kern, Madera, Merced, San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Tulare counties have until June 20, 2014, to apply. For additional information, eligible farmers are encouraged to contact their local NRCS Service Center. Service center locations can be found at www.ca.nrcs.usda.gov. In order to be considered eligible for EQIP, the applicant must have a vested interest in agricultural production and meet other program eligibility requirements.
NRCS has provided leadership in a partnership effort to help America's private landowners and managers conserve their soil, water and other natural resources since 1935.
SOURCE USDA - Natural Resources Conservation Service