The North Carolina Division of Soil and Water Conservation recently received seven applications seeking a total of $3,882,300 for lagoon conversion projects under the state’s Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative. The application process is now closed, and the review process is taking place in order to make final decisions on which operations will receive funding. During 2010, more than $1.1 million will be available through the initiative to farmers who implement new technologies that provide better water quality protection, reduce odor emissions and capture methane.

The five-year program is carried out through a partnership between the North Carolina Division of Soil and Water Conservation, local soil and water conservation districts and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Funding comes from the NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). The first round of funding was made available by state and federal officials during June 2009 to assist two swine farms with conversions to innovative technology. Nine swine farms received funds intended to go toward decommissioning inactive waste lagoons.

"We appreciate the support of our conservation partners at NRCS to continue to promote adoption of innovative waste management technologies in the animal industry, which is so important to the state's economy," said Pat Harris, director of the North Carolina Division of Soil and Water Conservation. "This initiative furthers the department's goal of growing a green economy by supporting industries that promote environmental protection and energy independence."

Harris praised the federal funding initiative, stressing the importance of finding innovative ways to meet conservation objectives during a severe economic recession. The initiative gives highest priority to the installation of innovative swine waste management technologies consistent with the state's Lagoon Conversion Program, which was established by the North Carolina General Assembly in 2007. To be eligible for funding, projects must meet environmental performance standards established by the General Assembly. The initiative places special emphasis on projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and produce renewable energy. As such, funds not used to install lagoon conversion technologies may be used to close existing swine waste lagoons or install other waste management technologies that yield renewable energy or greenhouse gas emission reductions.

Pork producers who participate in the initiative may receive 75% of the typical cost of eligible practices. Producers applying for Lagoon Conversion Program projects and producers classified as beginning, limited-resource, small, and socially disadvantaged farmers, ranchers and Indian tribes may receive up to 90% of typical costs to install the waste management technologies. Participants must also meet the federal program's eligibility criteria to receive funding.