Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Wednesday that USDA will target nearly $16 million in financial and technical assistance to help eligible crop and livestock producers in 19 states cope with adverse impacts of the historic drought gripping the nation.
“President Obama and I continue to work across the federal government to provide relief for those farmers and ranchers who are affected by the severe drought conditions impacting many states across our nation,” Vilsack said. “This additional assistance builds on a number of steps USDA has taken over the past few weeks to provide resources and flexibility in our existing programs to help producers endure these serious hardships.”
USDA’s Natural Re-sources Conservation Service (NRCS) will use $16 million in existing funds from its Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP) and Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to target states experiencing exceptional and extreme drought. The states with exceptional, or the most severe, drought are Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky and Nebraska. States experiencing extreme drought are Alabama, Illinois, Indiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, Nevada, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin.
An additional $771,000 in EQIP and $250,000 in WHIP funding is now available to assist drought-stricken producers and landowners.
“Tennessee is currently holding a special drought signup for producers interested in applying conservation practices that will alleviate the drought’s impacts, and improve soil health and productivity,” stated NRCS State Conservationist Kevin Brown. “EQIP and WHIP are continuous signups but for this drought effort applications in the D3 and D4 areas will be evaluated until the drought funds are expended.”
Producers in areas designated as either D3 Drought — Extreme or D4 Drought — Exceptional on the recent July 2012 U.S. Drought Monitor maps for Tennessee are eligible to apply for selected conservation practices. These areas include Benton, Carroll, Crockett, Dyer, Fayette, Gibson, Haywood, Henry, Houston, Humphreys, Lake, Lauderdale, Montgomery, Obion, Shelby, Stewart, Tipton and Weakley counties. During continuous signup, applications with the highest scores and a priority rating of HIGH will be funded first. Applicants should ensure that all aspects of their eligibility are up-to-date with the Farm Service Agency to expedite the process.
Eligible conservation practices include prescribed grazing, livestock watering facilities and water conservation practices. A list of all eligible practices is available from NRCS at local USDA Service Centers. Producers are also eligible for financial assistance to re-apply failed EQIP or WHIP conservation practices due to drought.
USDA has also announced the following:
• Allowing producers to modify current EQIP contracts to allow for grazing, livestock watering and other conservation activities to address drought conditions.
• Authorizing haying and grazing of Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) easement areas in drought-affected areas where haying and grazing is consistent with conservation of wildlife habitat and wetlands.
For more information, producers and landowners can visit the NRCS website at www.nrcs.usda.gov or their local NRCS office.
Published in The Messenger 8.10.12