Timing hurts area’s potential flood victims

Missouri Farm Bureau News Service – A U.S. Department of Agriculture announcement last week regarding the availability of funding for the Emergency Conservation Program and Emergency Watershed Protection Program was welcome news for Missouri farmers, landowners and communities affected by natural disasters in 2011.
However, farmers and ranchers in northwest Missouri might not be on the receiving end for EWPP funding due to unfortunately placed program deadlines.
Assistance through the EWPP is not immediately available for those working to recover from the Missouri River flood. Water still covered much of the farmland in need of repair in June, so flooded farmers did not meet the eligibility requirement to apply before the June 30 deadline. Farmers, landowners and communities in the Birds Point-New Madrid Floodway and other areas in southeast Missouri were able to request EWPP assistance within the timeframe.

Missouri Farm Bureau President Blake Hurst

Late last week, Missouri Farm Bureau President Blake Hurst urged the USDA to be flexible and expedite the reallocation of funding made available last week.
“Cropland affected by last year’s flooding is extremely productive, and our collective focus is on returning this land to production as quickly as possible,” he said.
In a letter to the USDA, Hurst’s call for flexibility involves reallocating estimated unused funds from other states to unmet needs of farmers recovering from the Missouri River flood and allowing them to proceed with repairs while waiting for those funds.
“The availability of financial assistance is important,” Hurst said, “but given the need for reallocation, perhaps more critical at this time is the ability to do the work and not sacrifice eligibility for assistance once funding arrives.”
At flood recovery meetings in Atchison and Holt counties, co-hosted by MFB and University of Missouri Extension on January 20, farmers and ranchers affected by Missouri River flooding were connected with representatives of the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Farm Service Agency and Risk Management Agency, as well as entities outside of USDA such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“These meetings provided landowners with valuable information ranging from crop insurance and land-reclamation programs to assessing tree damage and improving soil fertility,” Hurst said.
ECP funding will be helpful for clearing debris and grading farmland, but these dollars cannot be used for practices covered under the EWPP, such as clearing drainage ditches, fixing levees and structures, and reshaping eroded banks.
“The Emergency Watershed Protection Program can be very helpful to area landowners, but time is of the essence,” Hurst said. “Landowners and their local sponsors need to begin repair work as weather permits, and I am hopeful USDA officials will heed my request and make every effort to provide assistance funds in a timely manner.”

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