The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

February 3, 2012

Local farmers to get $213K for storm debris removal, fences

Limestone County officials and local farmers now have a better idea how much federal funding will be coming in to aid in recovery efforts from the April 27 tornadoes.

County Engineer Richard Sanders said the county has about $770,000 in costs related to debris in waterways and hopes those efforts will be fully funded by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, a branch of the United States Department of Agriculture.

He said it was his understanding the costs would be covered, but added he won’t know until the county receives its official agreement from the NRCS early next week.

“There are 10 sites and each one has a specific scope of work. It’s mostly taking the downed trees and uprooted stumps and hauling them off,” he said. “Anything still standing or that wasn’t blown over, we can’t touch because they don’t want us disturbing the ground.”

Sanders said work has to be performed from the edge of the creek and 20 feet out. He said most of the debris would have to be dragged out by cables because workers are not allowed to use heavy machinery like bulldozers in creek beds.

“It’s very limited as to what we can do,” he said.

Funds for farmers

On Wednesday, the USDA announced that Alabama would receive an additional $6.16 million in Emergency Conservation Program funds and an additional $776,250 in Emergency Forest Restoration Program funds. A press release said the additional funding would provide assistance to eligible farmers, ranchers and landowners who were previously approved for those funds but were not paid because of a lack of funds.

ECP funds will provide assistance to help eligible producers remove debris from farmland, restore livestock fences, conservation structures and grade and shape farmland damaged by the storms. EFRP funds provide assistance to eligible owners of nonindustrial private forest land in order to carry out emergency measures to restore damaged land.

In Alabama, 22 counties were approved for ECP assistance and seven counties, including Limestone, were approved for EFRP assistance because they were designated as a primary disaster county under a Presidential Disaster Declaration.

Vickie Lane with the state FSA in Montgomery said Limestone County is set to receive $213,000 in ECP funds. She said EFRP funds had not been allocated so she could not provide an amount.

Daniel Robinson, state executive director of the USDA’s Alabama Farm Service Agency, said the first round of funding received to help farmers recover from damages from tornadoes was not sufficient to provide assistance to the extent needed. He said the additional funding would help rebuild communities and keep farmers on the farm, ranchers on the ranch and landowners on the land.

“Landowners, individuals and communities have endured incredible hardships because of the intensity and volume of natural disasters,” Robinson said. “Our farmers and rural communities are vitally important to the state’s economy, producing the food, feed and fiber that continue to help us grow.”

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