Farmers and other landowners in last year’s hurricane zone may begin sign-up for the $504.1 million Emergency Forestry Conservation Program at county Farm Service Agency offices on Monday. Sign-up will conclude on Oct. 20.

The EFCRP Program is aimed at helping landowners and operators restore and enhance forestland damaged by the hurricanes that occurred in 2005.
”Emergency Forestry CRP is one of the many USDA programs available to help farmers and ranchers with hurricane recovery efforts," said Deputy Agriculture Secretary Chuck Conner.

"By planting trees, landowners and operators can rebuild their operations and restore important forest resources and improve the ability of at-risk land to withstand future storms."
EFCRP sign-up was originally scheduled to begin June 19. USDA postponed the sign-up after the June 15 enactment of the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror and Hurricane Recovery 2006, that changed some of the terms and provided an additional $100 million for the program.

Congress originally authorized the program at a level of $404 million through Public Law 109-148.
Trees planted through EFCRP will help reduce flood effects, protect water sources, decrease soil erosion and improve wildlife habitat. To be eligible for EFCRP, in general, a producer must have experienced at least a 35 percent loss to merchantable timber on private non-industrial forestland. The loss must relate directly to one of the calendar year 2005 hurricanes.
Tree loss must have occurred in one of 261 counties receiving presidential or secretarial primary disaster designations caused by 2005 hurricanes Dennis, Katrina, Ophelia, Rita or Wilma. Loss assistance is unavailable in contiguous counties that have not themselves been designated as disaster counties.

A complete list of eligible counties in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina and Texas is available online at: http://www.fsa.usda.gov/pas/publications/facts/html/hurrcounties06.htm.
Local Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices will accept land enrollment offers from producers from July 17 through Oct. 20. FSA will rank land offers based on the offer's potential to prevent soil erosion, improve water quality, restore wildlife habitat and mitigate economic loss caused by hurricanes. Those rankings will be based on evaluations performed by foresters.

The sign-up is divided into three selection periods for top-ranked offers: July 17 through August 25; August 28 through Sept. 22; and Sept. 25 through Oct. 20. Eligible offers not selected during the first or second period will rollover to subsequent selection period(s). All acceptable EFCRP offers must have conservation plans developed and approved by Dec. 31.
After offer evaluation and acceptance, a forester will work with the landowner to develop a conservation plan. Enrolled land will remain under contract for 10 years. EFCRP participants will receive 50 percent cost-share assistance and may select either a lump sum rental payment or 10 annual rental payments.

EFCRP participants may not harvest standing timber from enrolled land during the term of the contract period, except when the Commodity Credit Corporation permits it as part of normal forestland maintenance.
Acreage enrolled in EFCRP does not count toward the per-county number of acres eligible for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) or CRP's maximum acreage enrollment authority.
Conner said USDA has made available about $5.1 billion for hurricane recovery efforts since Sept. 2005. Agricultural producers can receive $2 billion through various programs, $1.8 billion will restore homes and rural communities and $1.3 billion has been made available in food and nutrition assistance.
USDA has also made available $250 million from Section 32 funds for crop disaster, livestock, tree and aquaculture assistance. These funds are being distributed through five new programs; the Tree Indemnity Program (TIP), the Hurricane Indemnity Program (HIP), the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP), the Feed Indemnity Program (FIP); and an Aquaculture Block Grant program.
More information on EFCRP is available at local FSA offices and online at: http://www.fsa.usda.gov/pas/publications/facts/html/efcrp06.htm. Additional information on USDA hurricane assistance is available at http://www.usda.gov/HurricaneInfo.xml