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FSA Programs in Nebraska

Follow the Rules When Seeking FSA Disaster Aid

Russ Quinn
By  Russ Quinn , DTN Staff Reporter
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Trees and sand litter a washed-out rural road and farm fields near the Elkhorn River Bridge just east of Scribner, Nebraska. The Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) provides cost-share to producers who have severe damage to farmland and pastures. (DTN photo by Russ Quinn.)

SCRIBNER, Neb. (DTN) -- Nebraska farmers affected by the devastating effects of recent floods and blizzards can use USDA Farm Service Agency cost-sharing programs to help recover financially. However, there are several rules and regulations producers must follow to receive aid.

At a flood information meeting in Scribner, Nebraska, on April 2, officials from FSA, NRCS and University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension spoke about the different resources available to farmers affected by the severe flooding.

The meeting, along with two other similar meetings held in different locations this week, drew a total of more than 180 producers from several east-central Nebraska counties that were affected by severe flooding.

INS AND OUTS OF ECP

The majority of the meeting was dedicated to discussing the Emergency Conservation Program. County Executive Director for the Dodge-Sarpy/Douglas FSA Bryan Ralston told the crowd the program provides cost-share to producers who have had severe damage to farmland and pastures due to a natural disaster.

The program pays up to 75% of the actual cost to repair land and the cost-share cannot exceed 50% of the agricultural market value of the affected land.

Practices available to producers to address the damage include debris removal from crop and pasture land, fence restoration, grading, shaping and leveling land, conservation structure restoration and shelterbelt restoration.

The requirements of ECP stipulate the damage to fields must be of such magnitude that it would be too costly for the producer to rehabilitate without federal assistance, he said. The minimum qualifying cost of restoration is $1,000 per participant.

"Looking around, we certainly have this on many of our farms," Ralston said.

The ECP is limited to agricultural producers and those who have an interest in the farm and contribute part of the practice cost to be eligible. Land eligible for the program is physically located in the county approved for ECP and must be used to commercially produce agricultural commodities and must continue to be used for ag production in the future.

Payment limitations would be $200,000 maximum per person or legal entity per disaster. Several questions came up in this discussion, such as if this dollar amount covered a husband and wife owning a farm, and what if you are part of a corporation.

Eligible cost-share items would be things such as new or used materials, services, labor, equipment and sales tax. The ECP cost-share is not authorized for rehabilitating stream banks, channels, levees, dikes, roads or recreational uses.

DON'T START YET

Ralston said any work done to fields before the request is fielded in the county office is ineligible. In addition, any practice started before an Environmental and Cultural Resource Evaluation was completed or before it was approved by the County FSA Committee will be ineligible as well.

"You have to come talk to us first before any work begins to be eligible," he said.

He said there are four parts of the ECP: removing debris (EC1), grading, shaping and releveling (EC2), restoring permanent fences (EC3) and restoring conservation structures and other installations (EC4).

The application process would start with a producer submitting an application on FSA-848. At this point an Environmental and Cultural Resource Evaluation will be completed, which is a requirement of all ECP practices.

Ralston said producers will need to keep track of their bills and receipts and they will also need to separate out bills for work done on ineligible land and/or practices. Documentation, such as invoices, canceled checks, and paid receipts must be submitted for payment from FSA.

Producers need to submit itemized statements if they complete practices with their own labor, equipment or materials. Dates of work performed, cost per hour charged for labor, type of equipment used, charge for equipment, type and cost of material used and other applicable information will be needed.

Signup dates for ECP run from March 25 through May 25, 2019. Ralston said if you have already called his office, you are on the list to be called for an appointment.

LIP QUESTIONS

The second half of Ralston's presentation was dedicated to the Livestock Indemnity Program. This program compensates livestock owners for livestock death losses that occur in excess of normal mortality because of an adverse weather event.

Normal mortality is a key part of LIP and defined as the numerical amount computed by a percentage of expected livestock deaths by category that normally occurs during a calendar year, he said.

Ralston gave an example of normal mortality. A producer owned 200 head of adult beef cattle on the beginning date of an eligible adverse weather event.

Normal mortality is 1.5% and five head were lost. So, you would multiple the 200 head by the 1.5% and you get three, which becomes the loss threshold.

In this example, two head of adult beef cattle would be eligible for an LIP payment.

Among the loss conditions in LIP would be adverse weather events. This could be blizzard, extreme cold, winter storms, flooding or a combination of weather conditions may be approved.

Producers would have to document their death losses. There are different ways to do this from photos to rendering truck receipts to even bank or veterinary records. If these are not available, a third-party certification is possible in which someone not affiliated to the operation can be used as proof of death losses.

Ralston said livestock death has to be within 30 days of the weather event and the notice of loss has to be filed with FSA within 30 days of death. File application for payment as well as all supporting documentation is due within 60 days of the end of the calendar year.

Russ Quinn can be reached at russ.quinn@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @RussQuinnDTN

(ES/SK/CZ)

Russ Quinn

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