By Jeff Helms
As south Alabama residents pick up the pieces from Hurricane Sally, the Alabama Farmers Federation reminds farmers and landowners a number of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs are available to assist in the recovery process.
The Farm Service Agency (FSA) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service ( NRCS) administer programs designed to help with activities such as debris removal, erosion control and forest health.
“Farmers and landowners should work with their local FSA and NRCS offices to determine whether they may qualify and which programs are best for their specific needs,” said Federation National Affairs Director Mitt Walker. “Although these specific programs will not replace the value of crops and trees that were lost, they will help with the cost producers will incur as they return their land to production and implement approved conservation practices.”
Some programs expected to be utilized are:
- Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP) – could potentially cover the cost of stored feed for livestock
- Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) – provides assistance to farmers returning farmland to production after damage from natural disasters, including clearing debris
- Emergency Forest Restoration Program (EFRP) – provides assistance to restore privately-owned forests and carry out emergency practices to restore forest health after a natural disaster
- Tree Assistance Program (TAP) – provides cost-share assistance for replanting or rehabilitating orchards and nurseries, and removal of lost trees following a natural disaster
- Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) – provides financial resources and technical expertise to repair and prevent excessive soil erosion and other emergency conservation practices
In recent years, Congress has approved additional disaster assistance to address the loss of crops and revenue. The most recent programs were the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program (WHIP) and WHIP Plus. There is not a supplemental disaster program in place for 2020. However, Congress could chose to act based on the needs that have arisen, Walker said.
“While farmers in the South and Southeast have endured an active hurricane season, farmers in the Midwest have experienced significant losses from a windstorm, or derecho, a few weeks ago. In addition, wildfires impacted wine country and other agricultural areas out West,” he added. “As we get past the election in November and move into the lame-duck session of Congress, I think there will be increased pressure to approve additional assistance for farmers dealing with natural disasters this year.”