High Tunnel Systems
The High Tunnel System is a voluntary program that provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers to extend the growing season for high value crops in an environmentally safe manner through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). High tunnels, sometimes called hoop houses, are steel-framed, polyethylene-covered structures that extend the growing season. High tunnel benefits include better plant and soil quality, fewer nutrients and pesticides in the environment, and better air quality because the crops are usually sold locally, decreasing fuel use for transportation.
Applications submitted for EQIP Initiatives are accepted continually throughout the year. Applications are evaluated and ranked based on expected environmental benefits from implementation of approved conservation practices.
High Tunnel System Requirements
The practice will extend the growing season early and late in the growing year.
Total high tunnel area is limited to 2,178 sq. ft. This may be single or multiple structures that cover a maximum of 2,178 sq. ft.
The high tunnel must be put on existing cropland that has an active crop production history.
Crops must be grown in the soil under the high tunnel, not in pots, growing racks or hydroponics systems.
The payment rate for high tunnels used an estimate that assumes the structure will be removed at the end of the growing season to prevent snow damage. A producer may use stronger hoops and heavier plastic that can be kept in place year-round without risking snow damage but the additional cost of those materials will not be covered through EQIP.
NRCS accepts applications for high tunnels from growers in urban areas. The local NRCS staff can help urban growers determine if they meet the eligibility criteria for EQIP. Zoning does not limit general program eligibility. If an area is zoned "urban" or "residential" the grower is responsible for obtaining approval for installing high tunnels and must meet all applicable laws and regulations.
Carrie Cusick, Acting EQIP Program Manager