The USDA has announced $2.7 million in Emergency Conservation Program funding for North Carolina farmers to remove debris, restore fences and conservation structures, and grade and shape farmland damaged by last year's Hurricane Isabel that hit the northeastern part of the state.

The funds will be applied to the eligible applications already received from producers since the ECP sign-up period relating to Hurricane Isabel has ended.

In June 2004, the USDA provided North Carolina with nearly $1.9 million in ECP funds. The state has so far received $4.6 million in assistance for the hurricane.

Hurricane Isabel caused an estimated $155 million in agricultural damage, the bulk of the damage being to livestock, crops, structures and equipment.

“This funding will help farmers and ranchers rehabilitate farmland damaged by last year's destructive Hurricane Isabel,” says Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman. “We are able to provide these funds as a result of returned unused allocations from other states.”

James Little, USDA Farm Service Agency administrator, and Keith Weatherly, North Carolina State FSA state director, discussed the funding at a press conference in Raleigh, N.C.

“Hurricane Isabel struck last September and caused significant damage to some of the northeastern North Carolina's largest agricultural production areas,” Little says. “The ECP assistance will provide much-needed relief to producers in these regions.”

The FSA state and county committees administer the ECP. Cost-share assistance is up to 64 percent of the cost of the approved practice, as determined by local FSA offices. The locally-elected county committees are authorized to implement ECP for all disasters except drought, which is authorized at the national FSA office.

For the producer's land to be eligible, the disaster must create new conservation problems that, if untreated, would impair or endanger the land and affects its productive capacity. Conservation problems existing prior to the applicable disaster are ineligible for ECP assistance.

Other programs offered by the USDA include the Emergency Loan Program, Federal Crop Insurance, Crop Disaster Program and the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program.

For more information, contact the local FSA office.