Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns recently announced the availability of $75.7 million Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) funds for newly authorized practices to help landowners and operators address 2005 hurricane damages.
"These Emergency Conservation Program funds will help farmers, forest owners, nursery and poultry producers rehabilitate operations damaged by last year's devastating hurricanes," said Johanns. "This is one of the many programs USDA is administering as part of our commitment to help farmers and ranchers and rural communities to recover."
The new ECP funds and practices are authorized by the 2006 Emergency Appropriations Act, signed by President Bush on Dec. 30, 2005, which provides $900 million to address natural disaster damages from the 2005 hurricanes. Of these funds, approximately $400 million is designated for the Emergency Forestry Conservation Reserve Program, $200 million for the ECP and $300 million for the Emergency Watershed Protection Program.
Generally, ECP provides assistance for producers to rehabilitate farmland and conservation practices damaged by natural disasters, including hurricanes. In addition, the Farm Service Agency (FSA) will offer cost-share assistance for new practices to remove debris from and replant damaged forestland, clean up nursery structures including shadehouses and above-ground irrigation systems, and rebuild poultry structures.
Producers can sign up for ECP at their local FSA office. To be eligible, producers must have suffered losses in a county that received a primary presidential or secretarial disaster designation due to calendar year 2005 hurricanes and approved for ECP. ECP assistance is unavailable for contiguous counties. A list of the eligible counties, located in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina and Texas, is available online at www.fsa.usda.gov .
Since the devastating 2005 hurricane season, USDA has invested $96 million in ECP funds into the states most affected by these storms to rehabilitate damaged cropland, including removing debris, grading and shaping, rebuilding fences and restoring conservation practices. ECP provides cost-share assistance up to 75 percent. However, producers may receive up to 100-percent cost-share assistance for these activities for damages caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita only.
Many nursery operations were also damaged or destroyed by the storms. FSA will offer $30.6 million to remove debris in nurseries, including shadehouses and above-ground irrigation structures. FSA may provide up to 90 percent of the eligible costs for debris removal. The maximum ECP payment is $200,000 per person, per disaster.
More information on ECP is available at local FSA offices and online at http://disaster.fsa.usda.gov/fsa.asp . Additional information on USDA Hurricane assistance is available at www.usda.gov/hurricaneinfo.xml .