The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is targeting $4 million to help farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners in California recover from the recent wildfires. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will issue waivers for those interested in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to enable recovery work to begin immediately. This is one of several disaster assistance programs available through USDA to support recovery efforts for individuals and communities.
NRCS will immediately begin accepting applications for its EQIP Catastrophic Fire Recovery fund pool to assist producers in covering the cost of certain rehabilitation practices, such as creating check dams in drainages, using damaged trees to slow runoff, repairing culvert systems, and planting tree seedlings. NRCS is waiving the standard 30-day application ranking period and is accepting applications for this initial fund pool through November 6, 2017.
“NRCS is committed to getting assistance out as soon as possible, and we are cutting some red tape to allow people to get to work immediately,” said Curtis Tarver, NRCS California acting state conservationist. “We encourage producers to visit their local USDA service center to submit an application and work with staff to begin recovery.”
NRCS is also offering technical and educational assistance to fire-impacted landowners faced with erosion and flooding in a damaged watershed. NRCS conservationists have expertise in erosion, hydrophobic soils, and the use of measures (such as sandbags, mulching, etc.) to mitigate damage to the landscape.
Additional USDA Assistance Available
NRCS, Farm Service Agency (FSA), and Risk Management Agency (RMA) in California are planning to meet with landowners, partners and other agencies to assess damages and discuss technical and financial assistance. Public workshops will be scheduled once the fires are contained.
FSA can help farmers and ranchers with a range of disaster assistance including compensation for livestock death and feed losses, risk coverage for specialty crops, and repair of damage to agricultural and private forest land. For example, the FSA Emergency Conservation Program provides funding and technical assistance to rehabilitate farmland damaged by natural disasters. One of the most helpful practices under this program after a wildfire is fence restoration.
“FSA has a number of programs to help wildfire-impacted producers get back on their feet,” said Jacque Johnson, Acting California FSA Executive Director. “I want to encourage farmers and ranchers to contact their local FSA office to find out about resources available to them.”
FSA’s suite of safety-net programs to help producers recover from eligible losses includes:
- Livestock Indemnity Program;
- Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program; and
- Tree Assistance Program.
Additionally, producers located in counties that receive a primary or contiguous disaster designation are eligible for low-interest emergency loans to help them recover from production and physical losses.
Compensation is also available to producers who purchased coverage through the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program, which protects non-insurable crops (including native grass for grazing) against natural disasters that result in lower yields, crop losses or prevented planting.
Federal crop insurance protects producers against losses due to natural perils, such as wildfires. The program, administered by RMA, offers several plans for crops and livestock in California. Those who purchased Federal crop insurance will be paid for covered losses. Federal crop insurance benefits not just our rural economy, but the financial strength of the nation, by helping America’s farmers and ranchers overcome unexpected events and catastrophes. Producers with coverage should contact their insurance agent for questions regarding claims.
USDA assists communities with rebuilding efforts following imminent hazards to life and property caused by natural disasters. Through the Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) Program, NRCS works with local government entities and Tribes in impacted counties to remove debris, stabilize streambanks, fix water control structures, among other practices.
“EWP allows us to provide immediate assistance to communities to mitigate potential hazards to life and property resulting from the fires,” said Tarver with NRCS. “It is work we can do with a local sponsor to help a damaged watershed channel water and mitigate erosion so that lives and property are protected and additional hardships are not heaped upon the devastated community.”
With the high potential for winter rains, burned areas are at greater risk for erosion and mudflows and EWP-type services are key to preventing further damage. The program requires local government bodies or another sponsor to assist with on-the-ground work including concrete barriers and debris basins, mulching, straw wattles, and other damage control measures.