Five Indiana counties were granted authority to implement the Emergency Conservation Program after tornadoes struck their areas on March 2. Indiana state executive director Julia Wickard made the announcement, indicating that local committees in Clark, Jefferson, Ripley, Scott and Washington Counties had requested that this program be implemented, and that their requests were approved.
Local farmers and landowners must make application in these counties for ECP funds by April 30, 2012 at their local FSA office. The program, actually a federal program that is overseen by the Indiana FSA when implemented, provides emergency funding and technical assistance for farmers to rehabilitate farmland damaged by natural disasters.
The specific request from these five counties which has been approved relates to debris removal and restoring fencing for agricultural purposes, notes Susan Allen, new chief of soil conservation programs for Indiana FSA. Once you've made application, FSA personnel will determine eligibility in the program, based upon type and extent of damage. To be eligible, the cost to remove debris or restore fences must exceed $1,000. Furthermore the damage must 'impair or endanger the land and materially affect the land's productive capacity.'
Cost-share is limited to 75% of the cost to return the land to pre-disaster conditions, or to restore fencing. In addition the applicant must not have the financial ability to complete the repairs needed without assistance.
In case you're wondering, if you are in one of these counties and debris was already picked up by volunteers or by yourself, you're not eligible for payment from the program. However, if you have fencers which were destroyed and have not been replaced, you may be eligible to sign up for that portion of the program, Allen says.
Thanks to volunteers, much of the debris was cleared out of fields within two weeks after the disaster. However, there may still be isolated fields there and there that for whatever reason, have not yet been cleaned of debris. Those are the kind of situations where this program might help, assuming the landowner meets the other qualifications to apply for acceptance into the program.
Although not yet announced, Allen says it's possible that an ECP program for assistance with doing restoration work in woods damaged or destroyed by the tornado may also be implemented in Washington County. As of April 1 Washington County was the only county to request this type of assistance.