The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has expanded an USDA initiative to help farmers and ranchers conduct energy audits and improve their overall energy efficiency. The initiative complements the existing energy audit initiative to help producers implement the energy conservation and efficiency recommendations that result from an energy audit.

“On-farm energy audits are one example of the many ways the Obama administration is supporting rural communities and helping rural families thrive,” says Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Providing producers with the opportunity to assess their energy usage and make needed improvements can save money while also benefitting the environment and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

On-farm audits are individually tailored to each agricultural operation’s primary energy uses. The audits help to pinpoint the amount of energy used by the entire operation and identify short- and long-term goals producers can use to conserve energy and achieve greater energy efficiencies.

The On-Farm Energy Audit/Implementation Initiative is offered through USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), which provides technical and financial assistance for this purpose through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). The on-farm energy audits, offered as EQIP Agricultural Energy Management Plans, must be conducted by certified technical service providers.

Producers who have had an energy audit that meets or exceeds the criteria of an EQIP plan may apply for technical and financial assistance to implement the audit’s recommendations.

Interested producers should contact their local NRCS office to determine their state’s deadline and payment schedule. Applications must be made no later than Feb. 25, 2011. Learn more at http://offices.sc.egov.usda.gov/locator/app?agency=nrcs.