Farmers offered cost-sharing program

Plenty of help is available to farmers through several programs from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), including cost sharing on projects and technical expertise.

Beau Sorenson, district conservationist, said the NRCS is not a regulatory agency and is just there to “help the people help the land” if they ask for it. He said besides cost-sharing programs to give farmers incentive to conserve resources, his group is always happy to visit with people and even come out to their property to help them identify resource concerns they may not even realize were a problem.

One national program they are preparing to administer is the seasonal high tunnel initiative, which helps farmers build high tunnels, or hoop houses, on their property.

“It is basically a greenhouse without a heater,” said soil conservationist Rebecca Pederson. “The idea is that a hoop house will extend their growing season.”

To qualify for the program, farmers must supply local venues like a farmers market or school.

The program is part of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, which also has an organic initiative setting aside money specifically for organic farmers or those transitioning to organic farming.

Sorenson said organic farming is more expensive and it is much harder to deal with resource concerns like pest management, so he is happy to see that initiative in place for a group that has often been overlooked.

Another federally funded program is the On-Farm Energy Initiative, which pays for an energy audit so farmers can see where they are wasting energy, then helps them come up with a plan to address it.

The Conservation Stewardship Program pays farmers for conservation performance.

Sorenson said that program is unusual because many programs overlook past projects and improvements and this one gives people credit for what they have already accomplished.

“They still have to do an enhancement, but it rewards people for what they have already done plus takes them a step further,” he said.

Those programs, all with rolling application dates, are in competition with growers from the rest of the state.

He said none of the programs fund projects at 100 percent of the cost but they do provide a good incentive to do improvement projects and increase conservation.

Just as importantly, he said, the NRCS is a great resource and provides a vast amount of technical expertise for free so that farmers are using the best evidence-based practices to address resource concerns.

“If we are going to cost-share on something we want to make sure it is going to work and fix the problem,” he said.

More information may be found at http://www.or.nrcs. or by contacting Hood River County representative Carly Heron at 541-386-2815.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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