Many people who participated in the NRCS high tunnel (hoophouse) grant program were frustrated by the limitations which the grants placed on use of these structures. NRCS has now revised this program to relax the restrictions on electrical, heating, and mechanical ventilation systems. To view the new guidelines click 'Read More'From the National Bulletin: 450-11-5 Date: October 19, 2010 Purpose: To inform and provide guidance on revised Interim Conservation Practice Standard (798), “Seasonal High Tunnels System for Crops.” Expiration Date: September 30, 2011 Background: The use of Interim Conservation Practice Standard 798, “Seasonal High Tunnels System for Crops,” offers a technology to extend the growing season in many areas of the United States to successfully produce vegetable and other specialty crops for personal or commercial use. High tunnels have applicability to all farms, but may offer particular advantages to small, limited-resource, and organic farmers by extending the growing season, producing higher-quality crops, improved yields, and addressing soil and water quality concerns. The interim standard has been used for about 9 months. Many producers have requested to add fans, heaters, and roll-up sides as features that would improve function and efficiency. Interim Conservation Practice Standard 798, “Seasonal High Tunnels System for Crops,” has been revised to relax the restrictions on electrical, heating, and mechanical ventilation systems. This revision is applicable to previous facilities planned and installed. Explanation: The purpose of the interim standard remains the same: to provide a simple structure for producers to use to extend the growing season. The purposes within the standard remain the same. The intention is not to build greenhouses. The definition of the practice has been revised to delete the verbiage relating to no electrical, heating, or mechanical ventilation systems. The new practice definition for 798 reads: “A seasonal polyethylene-covered structure that is used to cover crops to extend the growing season in an environmentally safe manner.” This will provide the opportunity for those producers who want to add the additional electrical, heaters, and ventilation systems to do so at their own expense. This change in the definition should have no impact on current payment schedules. Payment schedules are based on the least-cost alternative. The criteria for the interim standard remain unchanged. If the addition of electrical or mechanical equipment adds to the structural requirements of the structure, it is up to the producer to fund the higher-cost structure. The seasonal high tunnel system must still be a manufactured kit, as stated in the criteria. NRCS is not to design structural components to facilitate integrating electrical or mechanical systems into the structure and will not share on the cost of a stronger structure to support electrical or mechanical systems. The revised Interim Conservation Practice Standard, “Seasonal High Tunnels System for Crops,” is available HERE. Contact: For further clarification contact the national agronomist at (202) 720-3783 or the national environmental engineer at (202) 720-4485 for technical related questions.