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After dry 2011, agricultural assistance is available to producers

By ALLISON MILES
Jan. 24, 2012 at midnight
Updated Jan. 23, 2012 at 7:24 p.m.


AGRICULTURAL ASSISTANCE DEADLINES

Conservation Stewardship Program: Jan. 27

Program is open to producers who maintain high conservation levels on their land and agree to work toward higher stewardship levels. Eligible lands include cropland, pastureland, rangeland and non-industrial private forestland.Environmental Quality Incentives Program: Feb. 3

Program assists landowners to install structural, vegetative and management practices that can benefit soil, water, air, plants, livestock and wildlife. Practices include prescribed burning, prescribed grazing, vegetative buffers, brush management, grass planting, pipelines, wells, fencing and more.Wetlands Reserve Enhancement Program: Feb. 17

Program works through partnership agreements with states, nongovernmental organizations and tribes. As a component of the Wetlands Reserve Program, the Natural Resources Conservation Service enters into agreements with eligible partners to leverage resources to carry out high-priority wetland protection and improve wildlife habitat.Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program: March 1

Program helps keep land in agriculture production by providing funding to state, local or tribal entities with existing farmland protection programs to purchase conservation easements.

Source: United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service news release

As a parched 2011 gives way to 2012, producers statewide find themselves working to get back on their feet.

And help is available to make that happen.

Matagorda and Wharton were among the 40 counties statewide the United States Department of Agriculture designated primary natural disaster areas on Jan. 4.

"Texas farmers have experienced severe drought conditions over a long period of time, which has caused major losses to a wide variety of crop such as forage crops, pasture, corn, oats and wheat," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a USDA news release.

Producers have eight months from the declaration date to apply for loans to help cover losses, according to the release. The USDA Farm Service Agency considers each loan individually, looking at losses, available security and ability to repay.

Regardless of the disaster designation, Tom Brown, county executive director with the Matagorda County Farm Service Agency, said things remain business as usual at the office.

The situation and assistance information have been publicized, he said, and is available for those who need it. His office, however, has not seen more inquiries than usual.

Disaster designations are issued by the government, Brown added, explaining the USDA Farm Service Center's ag credit division in Wharton can offer additional information.

Assistance is also available for other areas, said Rupert Butler, county executive director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency in Victoria and Calhoun counties.

Two programs - the Livestock Forage Program and Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments Program - are currently available for eligible producers in Victoria and Calhoun counties, for instance.

In order to be eligible for disaster coverage, Butler said producers must purchase crop insurance at a minimum of "catastrophic" level through the Noninsured Disaster Assistance Program.

Some exceptions do exist, he added, such as socially-disadvantaged producers, farmers and ranchers with limited resources or those just starting out.

For the most part, producers know what help is out there, and what they need to do, said Mike Hiller, Jackson County extension agent.

And, while such assistance can benefit producers, he said many out there simply hope for a good rain.

"There's a good chance we might get some," he said Monday afternoon. "I hope it comes true."

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