GAINESVILLE — U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) can provide payments, through conservation program contracts, for Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) conservation practices to help agricultural landowners and producers address disaster related resource concerns on their land. To expedite Hurricane Ian disaster recovery, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is issuing early start waivers in EQIP emergency declaration counties, to allow commencement of key conservation practices prior to conservation program contract approval, announced Juan C. Hernandez, NRCS State Conservationist.
Twenty-eight Florida counties are identified for EQIP emergency assistance: Brevard, Broward, Charlotte, Clay, Collier, Desoto, Flagler, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Highlands, Hillsborough, Indian River, Lake, Lee, Manatee, Martin, Okeechobee, Orange, Osceola, Palm Beach, Polk, Putnam, Sarasota, Seminole, St. Johns, St. Lucie, and Volusia.
Agricultural producers and landowners interested in submitting an EQIP application, and who are unable to reach their local NRCS office, can contact the NRCS State Office at 352-338-9500 or email SM.NRCS.FL.DISASTERINFO@USDA.GOV to submit the following information:
• Location where assistance is requested (county, city, and major crossroads)
• Contact name and email address
• Phone number (state if mobile/cell; able to receive calls and/or text messages)
• Nature of need for assistance
“USDA remains committed to helping the people of Florida agriculture with every means at our disposal. We can assist local farmers in repairing damages to their land and existing conservation practices caused by Hurricane Ian.,” said Hernandez. “Through EQIP, we can help farmers repair and prevent soil erosion, as well as address water quality issues or other resource concerns resulting from high rainfall events and flooding.”
Additional EQIP emergency assistance guidelines:
• An early start waiver is not a guarantee of conservation program payment.
• Waiver approval is contingent upon work not having been started on the conservation practice(s) before the date this waiver was approved.
• Producers are asked to file an EQIP application and a waiver before they start an EQIP conservation practice. Producers may submit application responses by email or phone.
• Conservation practices must meet NRCS standards and specifications for the producer or landowner to receive payment.
• EQIP conservation practices offered for financial assistance are listed below:
○ 325 — High Tunnel System (sf)
○ 326 — Clearing and Snagging (ac)
○ 327 — Conservation Cover (ac)
○ 340 — Cover Crop (ac)
○ 342 — Critical Area Planting (ac)
○ 368 — Emergency Animal Mortality Management (amu)
○ 382 — Fence (ft)
○ 384 — Woody Residue Treatment (ac)
Environmental Quality Incentives Program: https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/fl/programs/financial/eqip/
Florida NRCS Field Office Locator: https://offices.sc.egov.usda.gov/locator/app?state=F
Florida NRCS: https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/site/fl/home/
USDA can also assist local government sponsors with the cost of recovery efforts like debris removal and streambank stabilization to address natural resource concerns and hazards through the Emergency Watershed Protection Program.
On farmers.gov, the Disaster Assistance Discovery Tool; Disaster Assistance-at-a-Glance fact sheet (PDF, 1.4 MB) and Farm Loan Discovery Tool can help producers and landowners determine program or loan options. For assistance with a crop insurance claim, producers and landowners should contact their crop insurance agent. For FSA and NRCS programs, they should contact their local USDA Service Center.
USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is also ready to work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and standing by for requests for assistance from states and local authorities, to provide emergency nutrition assistance to people in need.