Grants help pay for poultry house energy audits, upgrades

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

FAYETTEVILLE -- Producers in the nation's No. 2 broiler state could potentially save thousands of dollars each year on the energy needed to heat, light and run small motors in their poultry houses.

Identifying energy inefficiencies and suggesting solutions to reduce them are the goals of audits now available to Arkansas poultry producers, thanks to a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant.

The audit program showed an average potential energy savings of 28 percent for participants in its first year. Those savings add up quickly in a field where energy costs are almost 60 percent of a typical contract broiler grower's variable production costs, and energy costs have quadrupled since 2000.

For a fee of $380, rather than the $1,500 other auditors can charge, an energy professional will visit a producer's operation and inspect the farm's configuration, processes and equipment that affect energy efficiency. The specialist will provide recommendations that, once implemented, can yield important savings in energy costs. Producers can also apply for additional grants to help pay for the recommended changes.

Energy-savings plans can include recommendations such as using energy efficient light bulbs, installing air circulation fans under ceilings to improve heating efficiency, replacing double siding doors with roll-up seal doors and using radiant brooders.

One grower in Lincoln County learned of potential savings of about $3,000 a year -- 24 percent -- on gas and $2,250 a year, or 29 percent, on electricity from the audit. Findings from audits on 40 poultry farms showed the potential to save more than 226,000 gallons of propane and 2.4 million kilowatt hours of electricity.

Two USDA competitive funding programs can help offset the costs of implementing the recommended energy related upgrades, which, to date, have averaged about $120,000 per farm, assuming a four-poultry house farm.

A farm energy audit is a requirement for applying for these grants.

The Natural Resource Conservation Service offers 75 percent assistance for eligible producers to implement conservation practices, and the USDA Rural Development Agency's Rural Energy for America Program, or REAP, is a 25 percent cost-share grant. While the grants can't be combined to cover 100 percent of costs, farmers can still apply for both, according to Yi Liang, assistant professor-air quality for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.

"Producers can use one for their lighting upgrade, for example, but could use another to retrofit energy efficient heaters," she said.

The audits are funded by a USDA Rural Development grant awarded to Liang and Thomas Costello, both of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. Approximately 10 audit slots are still available.

Farmer should apply for the audits as soon as possible to ensure the audits are completed by April 30 -- the grant's end date.

NRCS field office staff can help farmers apply for the On-Farm Energy Initiative, that includes the energy audit and the 75 percent cost-share, energy-related retrofit grant. NRCS contact information can be found at

For more information on poultry production, visit, or contact your county extension agent.

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