FAQ: With all of the disasters that have impacted Iowa and it's cropland this year, farmers are asking--what is the Emergency Conservation Program and how does it work? Is this USDA program always available? How is it funded?
Answer: 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.
ECP or the Emergency Conservation Program offers assistance to eligible producers to rehabilitate farmlands and conservation structures that have been damaged because 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 they can begin the process of requesting adequate funding. ECP is a cost share program. ECP program 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 that the purpose of this program is to bring damaged land back into production. But what types of expenses are covered under this program?
The types of expenses covered by ECP vary depending on the type of natural disaster that occurs in a county. This could also vary throughout the state in a given year.
Since this past spring, Iowa has had several examples of how the ECP program can be used. Those include tornados in northwest Iowa and the Missouri River flooding along the state's western edge. Examples of how producers can use ECP in these areas include debris removal. ECP could help remove building debris that was strung across a field following a tornado, or sand, silt, or tree removal following extensive flooding.
This program can also be used to reshape or re-grade cropland. In periods of heavy rains, ECP can be used to repair soil conservation structures that may have been damaged when rainfall is more than what the maintained structures were designed to withstand.
In some cases, fencing that was lost to a storm could also 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, the ECP can be used to assist livestock farmers with emergency water supplies in pastures.
Question: When I have damage that I think is eligible for ECP, what do I need to do?
It is very important that damages are reported to your local FSA office as soon as it is discovered or known. This will allow your local office to make assessments and to 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 program eligibility.
When reporting the damage, your local FSA office will ask you to identify the damaged area on a map, as well as ask for an estimate of how long it will take to repair the damage or the cost. Program eligibility is determined by the county FSA committee by conducting on-site inspections that take into account the type and extent of damage. Conservation problems that existed before the disaster are not eligible for ECP assistance. After you are notified that the inspection has taken place, repair can begin.
FSA will request the funding if the local county FSA committee determines that the damage warrants the request and that the damage was severe enough that the land would not be rehabilitated without 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 limitations that have been set.
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. And be sure to read the regular column of "Frequently Asked Questions about the Farm Program" appearing in each issue of Wallaces Farmer magazine and at www.WallacesFarmer.com.