USDA offer to fund farms’ ‘high tunnels’ drawing lukewarm response in region
A year-old pilot program designed to show Nevada’s smaller agricultural producers how to extend their growing season has yet to gain any real traction with farmers.
But inquiries into the High Tunnels Pilot Project have spiked in recent weeks, says Albert Mulder, resource conservationist for the Natural Resource Conservation Service’s Fallon field office.
The program, part of a U.S. Department of Agriculture initiative, reimburses small farmers for the majority of their costs in erecting high tunnels, or hoop houses. High tunnels are metal or bow frames about six feet tall that are covered with a single layer of polyethylene. The hoop houses can help agricultural producers better manage the growing season for crops inside them, which is a boon for temperature-sensitive crops such as berries, herbs and vegetables.
One issue the program will study over the next three years, Mulder says, is the frost date in Nevada locations.
“One year we won’t have frost until November, but the next year we will have it in August,” he says. “We’ll do yearly reports on it and after three years put it all together.”
The program is geared to the small producer, and funds a structure 6-foot tall by a maximum of 2,178-feet long. Farmers who qualify for the program can expect 75 to 90 percent reimbursement for purchase of manufactured high tunnel structures.
To qualify, the agricultural producer must raise and sell $1,000 worth of crops annually.
“If you’re going to produce roughly 80,000 ounces (of gold) a year at $800 an ounce … and gold is at $1,900 or $2,000 per ounce, that’s going to create a tremendous amount of cash flow.”