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Study to look at high tunnels

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has introduced a new pilot project under the “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” initiative for farmers to establish high tunnels, also known as hoop houses, to increase the availability of locally grown produce in a conservation-friendly way.

The three-year, 38-state study that will include Mississippi will verify if high tunnels are effective in reducing pesticide use, keeping nutrients in the soil, extending the growing season, increasing yields and providing other benefits to growers.

Made of ribs of plastic or metal pipe covered with a layer of plastic sheeting, high tunnels are used year-round in parts of the country, providing steady incomes to farmers, a significant advantage to owners of small farms, limited-resource farmers and organic producers.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will provide financial assistance for the project through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the EQIP Organic Initiative and the Agricultural Management Assistance program. NRCS will fund one high tunnel per farm. High tunnels in the study can cover as much as five percent of one acre.

To sign up or learn more about EQIP assistance for high tunnel projects, contact a local NRCS office.

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