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
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
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 www.ca.nrcs.usda.gov, the FSA website at
www.fsa.usda.gov, 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) 788-7843 Fax
SOURCE The Natural Resources Conservation Service