US Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has launched an initiative to help California agricultural producers switch to more energy efficient operations.

Through this initiative NRCS will provide funding for individual on-farm energy audits designed to save both money and energy when fully implemented.

California is one of 29 states receiving funding for on-farm energy audits in fiscal 2010 through the 2008 Farm Bill’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). As much as $225,000 is available in California to assist up to 150 farmers and ranchers with audits.

The energy audits will be individually tailored to assess each farm’s primary energy uses such as milk cooling, irrigation pumping, heating and cooling of livestock production facilities, manure collection and transfer, grain drying and other similar on-farm activities.

NRCS California will pay for the initial audits and the associated Agricultural Energy Management Plan (AgEMP). The AgEMP provides producers a roadmap for future implementation of energy-efficient practices.

Applications are due at local NRCS offices on or before June 18, 2010. If approved for funding, producers will be asked to select an NRCS-certified local Technical Service Provider, or contractor, to perform the audit and develop the AgEMP.

Ed Burton, state conservationist of NRCS, California, said: “Helping California’s farmers and ranchers reduce energy use helps everyone’s bottom line. More efficient energy use will help our agricultural producers, and Californians, become more energy independent.

“Once an energy plan is developed for a specific farm or ranch, the producer may have the opportunity to apply for cost share through EQIP to implement some of the plan’s recommendations. NRCS is providing California’s agricultural producers a number of resources to really become energy efficient.”