During a press call on Wednesday, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced that USDA was providing an additional $308 million to supplement what has been provided in the form of crop insurance and disaster payments.
Vilsack told reporters that 2011 was a record year for agriculture in more ways than one. Farmers experienced record levels of income, saw record exports, and a variety of opportunities to increase markets for products.
"But 2011 was also a year that saw a substantial number of natural disasters that impacted close to 55 million acres of farmland across the country," Vilsack said. "Floods, droughts, tropical storms really did a great deal of damage throughout the country."
This additional funding is to assist farmers and landowner and communities affected by these natural disasters in 33 states and Puerto Rico. The total funding is composed of three specific projects: the Emergency Conservation Program, the Emergency Forest Restoration Program, and the Emergency Watershed Protection Program.
"Of the $308 million we are announcing $215.7 million is allocated to EWP funds, which is a Natural Resources Conservation Service program," Vilsack said. "Typical projects funded under EWP include removing debris from waterways, protecting eroded stream banks, and reseeding damaged areas."
The Emergency Conservation Program, which is a Farm Service Agency program will provide resources for producers to remove debris from farmland, to restore their livestock fences and conservation structures, and provide water for livestock during periods of severe drought.
"We will be allocating $80 million dollars in ECP funds for this purpose," Vilsack said. "The county committees assisted us in determining the eligibility based on onsite inspections of damaged land and considered the type and extent of the damage."
The balance of $12 million will be allocated to the Emergency Forest Restoration Program, also an FSA program that provides payments to eligible owners of non-industrial, private forested land in order to carry out emergency measures to restore land, which has been damaged by natural disasters.
"This is a critical component of the safety net that is provided to producers and communities that are impacted by natural disasters and highlights the importance of having that safety net," Vilsack said. "This is another way of us trying to provide help and assistance during a very difficult time."