Get emergency conservation aid

Flooding, hail, tornadoes and damaging winds have struck a number of Iowa locations this year. USDA’s Farm Service Agency has a program that offers emergency conservation help to repair damaged structures such as terraces, grass waterways, etc.

It’s called the Emergency Conservation Program, or ECP, and farmers in storm-affected areas are asking a lot of questions about it.The following answers are provided by Beth Grabau, public information and outreach specialist at the USDA Farm Service Agency’s state office in Des Moines. FSA program specialist Vickie Friedow assisted her with these answers.

Question: What is the Emergency Conservation Program, and how does it work? Is this USDA program always available? How is it funded?

Answer: The Emergency Conservation Program offers assistance to eligible producers to rehabilitate farmlands and conservation structures that have been damaged as a result of natural disasters. These cost-share funds can be used to repair farmland damaged by natural disasters or for carrying out emergency water conservation measures during periods of severe drought.

ECP funding is not “automatic.” Producers who need this type of assistance should contact their local FSA office immediately. Your local FSA office needs to collect damage information and estimates so it can begin the process of requesting adequate funding.

ECP is a cost-share program. ECP participants can receive financial assistance for up to 75% of the cost to implement approved practices, if all eligibility requirements are met.

Question: I understand the purpose of this program is to bring damaged land back into production. What types of expenses are covered?

Answer: Types of expenses covered by ECP vary depending on the kind of natural disaster that occurs in a county. This situation could also vary throughout the state in a given year.

Since this spring, Iowa has experienced several weather-related events that warrant use of ECP, including tornadoes in northwest Iowa and the Missouri River flooding along the state’s western edge.

One specific example of how producers can use ECP in storm-hit areas is for debris removal. ECP could help remove building debris that is strung across a field following a tornado; or sand, silt, or trees following extensive flooding.

This program can also be used to reshape or regrade cropland. In periods of heavy rains, ECP can be used to repair soil and water conservation structures that are damaged when rainfall is more than what the maintained structures were designed to withstand.

In some cases, fencing lost because of a storm could be re-established by using this cost-sharing program. But it can be used to reimburse the cost of replacement fencing only to the extent of covering the cost of the condition of what the fence was prior to the disaster.

Also, keep in mind that in periods of drought, ECP can be used to assist livestock farmers with bringing emergency water supplies to pastures.

Question: If I have damage that I think is eligible for ECP, what should I do?

Answer: It is very important that damage is reported to your local FSA office as soon as it is discovered. This will allow your local office to make assessments and begin the process of requesting funding.

It is important to submit your request for ECP assistance before beginning reconstructive work. Completing reconstructive work before submitting an ECP request could result in forfeiture of eligibility in the program.

When reporting the damage, your local FSA office will ask you to identify the damaged area on a map. It will also ask for an estimate of how long it will take to repair the damage, or an estimate of the cost. Program eligibility is determined by the county FSA committee conducting on-site inspections that take into account type and extent of damage.

Conservation problems that existed before the disaster occurred aren’t eligible for ECP assistance. After you are notified that the inspection has taken place, you can begin making repairs.

FSA will request the funding if the local county FSA committee determines that the damage warrants the request and if the damage was severe enough that the land would not be rehabilitated without this cost-share assistance.

Producers will be notified if funding has been received and if it is approved for their request. The amount of cost-share earned will be based on the bills submitted and cannot exceed pre-set limitations.

If you have specific questions or need details on USDA farm programs, contact your local USDA Farm Service Agency or other appropriate USDA agency office.

This article published in the August, 2011 edition of WALLACES FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2011.