U.S. Department of Agriculture says farmers and ranchers will receive $77 million in Emergency Conservation Program funds to repair farmland damaged by natural disasters in 2008.

Producers will be able to use the money to remove farmland debris, restore fences and repair conservation structures which were damaged by floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, storms, wildfires, and to carry out emergency water conservation measures after severe drought.

“These funds will allow farmers and ranchers to repair the severe damage to conservation systems caused by disaster conditions from hurricanes Ike and Gustav, as well as the 2008 Midwest floods,” said Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer.

“USDA has always worked shoulder to shoulder with producers during a disaster, and we remain committed to help through the weeks and months of recovery.”

For land to be eligible, the natural disaster must create new conservation problems that:

• if untreated, will impair or endanger the land;

• materially affect the land’s productive capacity;

• represent unusual damage that, except for wind erosion, is not likely to recur frequently in the same area; and

• would be so costly to repair that federal assistance is or will be required to return the land to productive agricultural use.

All of the above conditions must be met for eligibility. Conservation problems that existed before the disaster are not eligible for cost-share assistance. USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) county committees determine land eligibility based on on-site inspections of damage, taking into account the type and extent of damage.

Mid-South and surrounding states and estimated dollar amounts for the Emergency Conservation Program are: Arkansas, $1.04 million; Georgia, $3.34 million; Kentucky, $67,000; Louisiana, $16 million; Mississippi, $337,000; Missouri, $3.42 million; Tennessee, $2.76 million.

A detailed list of counties and associated specific disasters is on FSA’s Web site at: http://www.fsa.usda.gov/Internet/FSA_File/ecpcounties2.pdf. A national map with a visual depiction of the affected counties and disaster types is on the FSA Web site at: http://www.fsa.usda.gov/Internet/FSA_File/ecpmap2.pdf.

The remainder of ECP funds will be allocated as additional requests are processed. For further information on eligibility requirements as well as applications, producers may visit their local FSA office or online at http://disaster.fsa.usda.gov.