A High Tunnel System, commonly called a “hoop house,” is an increasingly popular conservation practice for farmers, and is available with financial assistance through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).
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With high tunnel systems, no summer is too short or winter too cold because high tunnels:
- Extend the growing season
- Improve plant quality and soil quality
- Reduce nutrient and pesticide transportation
- Improve air quality through reduced transportation inputs
- Reduce energy use by providing consumers with a local source of fresh produce
High tunnels protect plants from severe weather and allow farmers to extend their growing seasons – growing earlier into the spring, later into the fall, and sometimes, year-round. And because high tunnels prevent direct rainfall from reaching plants, farmers can use precise tools like drip irrigation to efficiently deliver water and nutrients to plants. High tunnels also offer farmers a greater ability to control pests and can even protect plants from pollen and pesticide drift.
A number of soil health practices can be used in high tunnels, including cover crops and crop rotations, which also prevent erosion, suppress weeds, increase soil water content, and break pest cycles.
Perhaps the best thing about high tunnels is that they help farmers provide their communities with healthy local food for much of the year – food that requires less energy and transportation inputs.
Ready to make a high tunnel system part of your operation? Check out Apply for EQIP.
Oregon's High Tunnel Initiative
Counties: Baker, Benton, Clackamas, Clatsop, Columbia, Coos, Curry, Douglas, Gilliam, Grant, Jackson, Josephine, Lane, Lincoln, Linn, Malheur, Marion, Morrow, Multnomah, Polk, Tillamook, Umatilla, Union, Wallowa, Washington, Wheeler, Yamhill
Primary Resource Concern Addressed: Degraded Plant Condition – Plant Productivity and Health
The purpose of the “High Tunnel System” conservation practice is to assist producers to extend the growing season for high-value crops in an environmentally safe manner. The practice has the potential to assist producers to address resource concerns by improving plant quality, improving soil quality, and reducing nutrients and pesticide transport.
Conservation Practices Offered: High Tunnel System (325)
The crops grown within the high tunnel must be planted directly into the soil covered by the seasonal high tunnel. The use of pots, growing racks or hydroponics is not eligible.
To be eligible for NRCS financial assistance, seasonal high tunnels must be purchased as a kit with warranties for wind and snow damage and installation instructions from a manufacturer. High tunnels must be planned, designed, and constructed in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations. Expected life span of the high tunnel is a minimum of 4 years.
In Oregon the high tunnel practice has a payment cap of $8,000 for general EQIP applicants and $10,000 for applicants that quality as Historically Underserved. Applicants can apply for one or multiple seasonal high tunnels as long as the sum total does not exceed the practice payment cap.
NRCS uses these questions to evaluate applications for this initiative and to prioritize applications for potential funding. State and national ranking questions also apply. See more information on the EQIP program page.
- In the last calendar year, in the site proposed for the new high tunnel, did you grow and distribute produce that would benefit from a high tunnel system? Examples of such produce include vegetables, strawberries, flowers and herbs.
- Applicant has a sustainable certification addressing water quality and/or other resource concern on the farm or ranch?
- Applicant is currently marketing their products through local food systems (schools, restaurants, farmers markets, roadside stands, Community-Supported Agriculture markets, etc.)
- For the majority of the PLUs in the application, which best describes the Growing Degree Days for that area of the state?
- Areas of the state with growing degree days between 140 and 900
- Areas of the state with growing degree days between 910 and 1800
- Areas of the state with growing degree days between 1810 and 2300
- Areas of the state with growing degree days between 2310 and 2800
Ready to get started?
Contact your local service center to start your application.
How to Get Assistance
Do you farm or ranch and want to make improvements to the land that you own or lease?
Natural Resources Conservation Service offers technical and financial assistance to help farmers, ranchers and forest landowners.
To get started with NRCS, we recommend you stop by your local NRCS field office. We’ll discuss your vision for your land.
NRCS provides landowners with free technical assistance, or advice, for their land. Common technical assistance includes: resource assessment, practice design and resource monitoring. Your conservation planner will help you determine if financial assistance is right for you.
We’ll walk you through the application process. To get started on applying for financial assistance, we’ll work with you:
- To fill out an AD 1026, which ensures a conservation plan is in place before lands with highly erodible soils are farmed. It also ensures that identified wetland areas are protected.
- To meet other eligibility certifications.
Once complete, we’ll work with you on the application, or CPA 1200.
Applications for most programs are accepted on a continuous basis, but they’re considered for funding in different ranking periods. Be sure to ask your local NRCS district conservationist about the deadline for the ranking period to ensure you turn in your application in time.
As part of the application process, we’ll check to see if you are eligible. To do this, you’ll need to bring:
- An official tax ID (Social Security number or an employer ID)
- A property deed or lease agreement to show you have control of the property; and
- A farm tract number.
If you don’t have a farm tract number, you can get one from USDA’s Farm Service Agency. Typically, the local FSA office is located in the same building as the local NRCS office. You only need a farm tract number if you’re interested in financial assistance.
NRCS will take a look at the applications and rank them according to local resource concerns, the amount of conservation benefits the work will provide and the needs of applicants.
If you’re selected, you can choose whether to sign the contract for the work to be done.
Once you sign the contract, you’ll be provided standards and specifications for completing the practice or practices, and then you will have a specified amount of time to implement. Once the work is implemented and inspected, you’ll be paid the rate of compensation for the work if it meets NRCS standards and specifications.