Flooded Nebraska farmers can apply for up to 75% cost-share up, to a maximum of $200,000, for conservation and land restoration practices in the wake of flooding to their farms and fields. The Farm Service Agency in Nebraska is implementing the Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) to help producers restore farmland and conservation structures damaged by Missouri River flooding in the counties of Boyd, Burt, Cedar, Dakota, Dixon, Douglas, Knox, Nemaha, Otoe, Richardson, Sarpy, Thurston and Washington.
Applications for assistance are being taken now at local FSA offices until Oct. 31, 2011. ECP is available to farmers suffering from severe damage due to flooding that is so costly that they could not rehabilitate their land and structures without federal help.
Local approval of applications will be subject to funding, says Lavaine Moore, agricultural programs specialist with the state FSA office. "We have requested $17 million for the program in Nebraska," Moore says. "At this point, we don't have a clear picture if we are going to be funded or not."
Because of budget constraints, specific practices like debris removal, structure damage and silt removal will be higher on the priority list than fencing, for instance, Moore says. Practices normally need to be completed within six months of approval, but an extension up to a year can be requested, she says.
Eligible practices also include grading, shaping, re-leveling or similar measures, restoring conservation structures, field windbreaks and farmstead shelterbelts. For producers to be eligible, the disaster must create new conservation problems that would impair or endanger the land and affect its productivity if not remedied.
Conservation issues that existed prior to the flooding are not eligible for assistance through ECP.
Moore says that FSA personnel in Nebraska are meeting with staff in other river states to discuss guidelines in distributing funds and approval of practices through ECP, so there is consistency between the states. Applications are handled at the county level, so state FSA staff members hope to develop criteria and priorities to help county personnel administer ECP applications.
Farmers who apply for ECP assistance must apply for help before doing the work, Moore says. Cost-share will not be for more than 50% of the market value of the affected land. For projects that will cost less than $5,000, farmers should have a precise measurement of the acres affected and have an idea of the cost of the conservation practices being requested, she says.
"The ECP provides some relief in helping producers in a time of such severe devastation to provide assistance in restoring the land to productive agricultural use," says Moore. "Due to the severity of the damage, producers cannot begin to financially restore the land without federal assistance and if ECP and other disaster programs can help in providing some financial assistance, it's a start for those affected."
If you'd like more information on ECP or other programs available to farmers affected by this year's flooding, contact your local FSA office or go online at http://disaster.fsa.usda.gov.