Two USDA Agencies Direct $6.6 Million to Assist Farmers in Wake of Fires

Nov 16, 2007, 00:00 ET from The Natural Resources Conservation Service

    RIVERSIDE, Calif., Nov. 16 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Natural
 Resources Conservation Service and the Farm Service Agency, two agencies
 within the U.S. Department of Agriculture, are announcing that they will
 make available $6.6 million to help farmers and ranchers recovering from
 southern California fires in San Diego, Los Angeles, and Ventura Counties.
     "There is a lot of good work underway helping the people and landscape
 of southern California," says Lincoln "Ed" Burton, State Conservationist
 for the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service. "But this assistance
 is to fill a special void of helping agricultural producers as best as we
 can within our authorities to help."
     "We want this to be as customer friendly as possible," says John
 Smythe, State Executive Director of the Farm Services Agency in California.
 "Of course our respective programs have different opportunities and
 limitations, but we pledge to work together to make the assistance to the
 producer as effective as possible."
     From the NRCS, $4.6 million is being made available through the
 Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to protect newly exposed
 soil from severe erosion and to install agriculture infrastructure such as
 irrigation systems, needed to maintain the crops and other vegetative
 covers essential to protecting the hillsides.
     Through FSA, approximately $2 million will be made available for debris
 removal from orchards and to replace livestock fencing, through the
 Emergency Conservation Program (ECP). Both programs will offer a 75 percent
 cost share.
     Avocado, citrus groves and nurseries have been especially hard hit from
 these recent fires, according to Dave Heilig, Assistant State
 Conservationist for the NRCS in Riverside. "Farmers have reported loss of
 irrigation systems, soil protecting mulches, cover crops, and the crops
 themselves," Heilig said. "Our intent is to help these farmers get the most
 important conservation measures back on the land to save soil and water
 which in turn can help save their crops. The groves of trees and other
 crops that have been affected by fire are in critical need of reliable
 irrigation," he added.
     Only those with agricultural production history on lands damaged by
 fire are eligible for ECP or for this special EQIP program, and other
 eligibility criteria must be met.
     "John and I toured groves and nurseries devastated by the fires and we
 saw the frustration and sadness in the faces of those who saw their hard
 work melted away in the fire," says Burton. "But we also saw their hope and
 determination to pick up the pieces and go forward. We hope this assistance
 will help producers start anew and keep agriculture viable in southern
     Applicants approved and funded will be responsible for implementing
 their EQIP conservation recovery plans. All applications will be screened
 for eligibility and proposed projects must show environmental benefits over
 existing conditions.
     In San Diego County alone, about 100 farmers are expected to sign up
 for assistance, according to NRCS District Conservationist Cori Calvert
 Butler who oversees NRCS programs in San Diego County. "We're moving fast
 to mobilize a team of conservation planners and engineers to get EQIP or
 ECP ready for new applicants," she reports.
     For more information about the programs or to submit an application,
 visit the NRCS website at, the FSA website at, or any of the offices listed below. Applications for
 either program will be accepted at any of the following offices:
      Escondido NRCS Field Office
      332 S. Juniper St., Ste 110
      Escondido, CA 92025
      Lancaster NRCS Field Office
      44811 N. Date Ave., Suite G,
      Lancaster, CA 93534
      Somis NRCS Field Office
      3380 Somis Rd.
      Somis, CA 93066
      Riverside/San Diego FSA Office
      82-901 Bliss Ave.
      Indio, CA 92201-4355
      4500 Glenwood Drive Bldg B
      Riverside, CA  92501
      (951) 684-3722
      (951) 788-7843 Fax

SOURCE The Natural Resources Conservation Service