Help might be available to ranchers who experienced loss of grazing land, conservation structures and fencing to wildfires across the state. In addition to emergency loans that may be available through the Farm Service Agency, ranchers can apply to their local NRCS office for assistance through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, or EQIP.
Nadine Bishop, NRCS state range management specialist, spoke to a group of ranchers and landowners at a wildfire recovery meeting recently in Norden about assistance from her agency.
"NRCS staff will work with the producer to develop a conservation plan and timeline for implementation of practices," Bishop says. "Our staff will look at the area in the field with the producer to evaluate the resource and develop feasible alternatives. Once the producer has signed an application, our staff will schedule a field visit as soon as possible."
Bishop says that cost-share could be available to replace burned fences, renovate lost windbreaks, and for well and waterline repairs and implementation, as well as other practices. "If they have a map of their operation that has the extent of the land burned in the wildfire outlined, it would be helpful for them to bring the map" to the NRCS office, she says. "A map is not required, but it would be a timesaver. The location of fences and other improvements destroyed in the fire, location of fences and other improvements that were not impacted and planned location of new fences and improvements on the map will assist in development of the new plan," Bishop says. Producers can apply for assistance any time.
When they visit their local NRCS office, Bishop says the local staff will be able to let the producers know if their farm records are up to date and complete or if additional information will be necessary.
"NRCS can provide technical assistance to help producers in development of a grazing plan that will facilitate the recovery of the grasses," she says. "NRCS staff can provide site specific recommendations based on the plant community and previous grazing history." This assistance will help ranchers come up with plans that will mitigate the impact of the fire and ultimately benefit the forage resources on their land. "Grazing records that indicate when the pastures were grazed in 2012 before the fire, and in 2011 will also help NRCS staff make grazing recommendations," Bishop says.
Projects and plans on an application will be ranked based on a number of criteria, including extent of the operation hit by wildfire. "A team is working on development of the ranking criteria," Bishop says. Federal funding for new EQIP contracts is still under consideration, but she advises producers to apply as soon as possible to get the ball rolling.
Contact your local NRCS office for more information. You can contact Bishop at 308-882-4263, extension 1017 or email [email protected].