Farmers and long leaf pine forests in South Carolina may benefit from funding under a new federal program authorized under the 2014 U.S. Farm Bill that seeks to create public-private partnerships in conservation efforts.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced that two South Carolina programs are slated for funding, including one led by the Clemson University Extension office. That program will receive $1.1 million to provide outreach and technical assistance for farmers interested in improving energy efficiency in plant and animal production buildings.
With aid from collaborative partners - the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service, the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, Duke Energy and USDA Rural Development – funding for that project is expected to reach $4.5 million.
"Rising energy costs are severely eroding profitability on all kinds of farms. In particular, cost of electricity and LP (liquefied petroleum) gas have more than doubled since 2000, resulting in sharp increases in energy costs for farms that produce poultry, swine, dairy and plants in greenhouses," said Clemson professor and Extension agricultural engineer John Chastain, who will lead the program, in a statement. "Increases in farm income on the order of $10,000 to $25,000 per year are not uncommon following upgrades in energy-efficient ventilation, lighting, heating equipment and building insulation."
The team will provide education on energy conservation technologies for animal and horticultural producers; offer on-farm evaluation of energy-saving opportunities; design retrofit or new systems that meet functional and efficiency requirements; collect vendor bids and perform cost-benefit analyses; provide assistance in applying for financial assistance from government and utility programs; and certify that the specified equipment or technology has been implemented correctly, according to a statement from Clemson University about the project.
In the long-leaf pine program, South Carolina along with Georgia, Florida and Louisiana will receive funding to address that forest habitat as well as endangered and threatened species adjacent to military facilities, said. Eric Fleming, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Resources Conservation Service.
He outlined both programs in an announcement at the state AgriBiz and Farm Expo in Florence.
The pine program has received $12 million in funding, and is expected to leverage another $12 million in partnerships to be used for conservation easements.