By Jesse Wood
Aug. 6, 2013. Avery and Watauga county farmers seeking assistance for flood damage have until 5 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 9, to apply with the Farm Service Agency, a USDA agency that coordinates the Emergency Conservation Program.
Since the beginning of the year, some areas of the High Country have received more than 60 inches of rain. While the rain has been a nuisance to residents and tourists, it has especially wreaked havoc on farmers and their crops, leaving some pondering how to pay bills come the end of the crop season.
As Matt Cooper, president of the Watauga County Farmers’ Market, told High Country Press two weeks ago, “There is no saving grace for farmers. We will have to dip into savings and pick up another job basically if the money doesn’t show up, and for a lot of us, the money isn’t showing up because of the ways the rains came.“
Cooper said his lettuce, bok choy and Swiss chard crops were devastated, and he was also concerned about the ruination of his tomato, potato and squash crops. “For me, I’ll just push on through the season, get into the fall and figure out what we’ll have to do next for an income,” Cooper said.
While the emergency program won’t help you recoup potential revenue from lost crop, it is designed to help farmers get their land repaired to grow crops again.
Gay Isaacs, the county executive for the Farm Service Agency, said her office has received numerous calls and walk-in visits from local farmers inquiring about assistance for farmland damage.
The program is only available when damage “gets so bad,” Isaacs said, adding that it isn’t available every year.
“To put things in perspective,” Isaacs said, “the last time we had it for flood damage was 2004 during the Ivan and Frances hurricanes.”
The emergency conservation program assistance consists of four tiers:
- Removing debris from farmland
- Grading, shaping and re-leveling of farmland
- Restoring permanent fencing that washed away
- Restoring conservation structures and other installations
Isaacs encourages farmers who think their farm damage may fall under those categories to contact her office at 828-264-3850, Ext. 2.
For more information about the Emergency Conservation Program, click here.
This video titled “Help for Flood Affected Farmers” was published on May 16.