Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin says the supplemental spending bill passed by Congress late last week includes $479 million for emergency conservation efforts for areas affected by the Midwest floods.

Harkin, chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, said the funding is needed to help farmers begin recovery from the flooding that continues to inundate farmland in Iowa and the upper Mississippi Valley.

“The full extent of the damage inflicted on the Midwest by the recent flooding and excessive rainfall is still unknown,” said Harkin. “Yet in touring Iowa, it is evident that there are a great deal of pressing conservation needs on the ground now in terms of damaged conservation structures and debris removal needs.

“To that end, this funding is a critical first step toward recovery, but I doubt this will be the final word on emergency funding for conservation. As flood damage is assessed, I would anticipate a more detailed determination of conservation needs and there will likely need to further emergency funding provided.”

The supplemental appropriations bill included $89 million for the Emergency Conservation Program, which provides emergency assistance to producers to respond to conservation damage such as debris or damage to conservation structures. The program, which is administered by USDA’s Farm Service Agency, will help reduce an existing backlog of $67 million, with an additional $22 million for the present emergency.

The bill also includes $390 million for the Emergency Watershed Program that provides similar assistance on a matching-fund basis to governmental entities. The Natural Resources Conservation Service estimates an Iowa-specific level around $36.5 million. NRCS estimates that more funding will be needed, with preliminary national estimates at around $500 million in total to aid recovery efforts.

“This funding is critical, but it is equally important that USDA have the personnel and the resources needed to swiftly process these applications,” says Harkin. “I urge Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer to constantly evaluate management and bottlenecks facing those seeking funding to recover from this disaster.”