Pennsylvania Fruit Growers Benefit from Federal Incentive Program
Posted: April 27, 2010
The program, Agriculture Management Assistance (AMA), is administered by the USDA's Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) through National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The program reimburses growers on working lands for various conservation practices, including integrated pest management.
Integrated pest management (IPM) aims to manage pests -- such as insects, diseases, weeds and animals -- by combining physical, biological and chemical tactics that are safe, profitable and environmentally compatible.
According to Barry Frantz, assistant state conservationist for programs with the USDA in Pennsylvania, NRCS, the AMA provides cost-share assistance to agricultural producers to voluntarily address issues such as water management, water quality, and erosion control by incorporating conservation into their farming operations. "Producers may construct or improve water management structures or irrigation structures, plant trees for windbreaks or to improve water quality, mitigate risk through production diversification or resource conservation practices, adopt integrated pest management tactics, or transition to organic farming," Frantz explains.
The program may pay up to 75 percent of the costs of conservation practices. "Incentive payments can also be made to encourage a producer to perform a land management practice that would not otherwise be done without financial assistance. Incentive payments can be made for up to three years, enough time for a producer to decide if they want to continue using the practice at their own cost or not," Frantz explains.
Ed Rajotte, program coordinator for the Pennsylvania IPM Program, says programs like this have the potential to further IPM adoption among fruit growers. "Often when new IPM technologies are offered to growers they perceive that the new technologies will be more expensive to implement. Since it is difficult in agriculture to pass increased costs on to consumers, growers may be reluctant to try new things," he says. "This economic reality makes it difficult to persuade growers to change despite any environmental benefits that may come from the IPM practices. These NRCS payment programs take some of the risk out of the change. Programs like AMA are part of a shift we are seeing away from crop price supports to a system of 'green' payments -- paying farmers to conserve natural resources and adopt environmentally sound management practices."
According to Frantz, the program has generated a lot of interest. "For a first year program that came out late in the year, we had an incredible amount participation, largely from the fruit growers in the Adams County area as well as from some producers in other counties. We had over 50 applications for IPM/pesticide handling and over 70 for irrigation. Now that growers know about AMA I think the response to our conservation programs will be at least as strong as last year. I think the big response by growers confirms the fact that we didn't create interest in IPM with this program, we simply responded to it," Frantz explains.
Tom Haas, Cherry Hill Orchards, Lancaster County, is one of the growers who will be participating in the program this year. A family-owned and operated orchard, Haas says they grow fruit such as apples, peaches, nectarines and cherries on 190 acres. "We plan on using the program to fund things like non-chemical control methods, beneficial insects, trapping, and planting disease resistant varieties of trees," he says. "We're very excited about participating in the program. Some of these activities we've been doing for years but on a limited basis. The program will allow us to expand our efforts and try some new tactics, such as the use of pheromone traps. In addition, we are seeing a push from the general public demanding that fruit be grown using less chemicals, so this program will also allow us to help meet that demand," Haas explains.
Applicants approved for funding through the program develop and submit a conservation plan that will address the identified conservation needs with the assistance of NRCS or other public or private natural resource professionals. "The plan is used to develop a contract that will provide funding to implement the planned practices. Those with higher environmental needs receive preference in the program," Fratz says. Payments can be used for a variety of IPM activities covered under the Pest Management practice, including scouting (crop monitoring), pheromone and light trap purchases, pest prediction services, etc.
In addition to the federal dollars, conservation on private land is
supported by contributions from state and local sources, tribes,
conservation districts and non-governmental organizations as well as
from landowners themselves who implement conservation practices and
resource management systems.
Applicants may request AMA assistance by submitting an application to the local NRCS office. Applications (form CCC-1200) are also available online at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/ama/, along with additional information about the program. Questions about the program may be directed to Barry Frantz, (717) 237-2216, or email at email@example.com.
The Pennsylvania IPM program is a collaboration between the Pennsylvania State University and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture aimed at promoting integrated pest management in both agricultural and nonagricultural situations. For more information, contact the program at (814) 865-2839, or Web site http://paipm.cas.psu.edu/. To view our archived news releases, see Web site http://paipm.cas.psu.edu/news.