INDIANAPOLIS -- The United States Department of Agriculture announced March 9 that a portion of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Stimulus Package) is being offered to farmers whose fields have had flood damages. The damages could have happened last June, or could be in fields that have a recurring flood problem. Land qualifies if it has been flooded at least once in the past 12 months, or twice in the past 10 years.
"This has come up pretty fast, and we want to allocate the money quickly so it can help put people to work," says Jane Hardisty, state conservationist for USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS). "Nationally we have $145 million available, and we see this as an opportunity to offer lump-sum payments to farmers who have flooding problems, and to help stimulate the economy in communities all over Indiana. In fact, we are announcing a sign-up period beginning today, Monday, March 9, to Friday, March 27."
Floodplain easements can benefit landowners who continually fight flooding on cropland. For example, on a 100-acre crop field in Owen County that floods one out of every three years, even with crop insurance a farmer is estimated to be loosing approximately $5,000 in revenue annually (taking costs of planting, production and field preparation due to flood damage into consideration). If that land is enrolled in the Floodplain Easement Program, the landowner would receive a one-time payment of $215,000 for the 100 acres of cropland. Instead of losing an average of $5,000 per year on this land, the landowner now has $215,000 to apply to farming operations in other areas less susceptible to flooding.
Easement compensation is based on a cap set for each county, and the land is valued either as agricultural land or non-agricultural land. Agricultural land county caps range from $2,019 per acre, to $4,687 per acre. Non-agricultural land ranges from $1,004 to $2,819. Actual rates for each county can be found on-line at the web-site listed below.
"We have seen places here in Indiana where flooding losses happen frequently enough, and productivity is low enough that they are not worth the investment it takes to continue to farm them," says State Conservationist Jane Hardisty. "And the Floodplain Easement dollars would allow farmers to move their operations to more suitable land."
Lands put into the Floodplain Easement Program will generate many public benefits, such as increased flood protection, enhanced fish and wildlife habitat, improved water quality, and a reduced need for future public disaster assistance. Other benefits include reduced energy consumption when certain agricultural activities and practices are eliminated and increased carbon sequestration as permanent vegetative cover is re-established.
The easements that NRCS buys from participants are permanent easements, and they stay with the property if it is sold. The payment is a one-time payment. If restoration work is done on a site, NRCS can pay for 100 percent of the costs. More information about the Floodplain Easement Program can be found on-line at: http://www.in.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/FEP...
Interested landowners can get more information and apply by visiting NRCS at the local USDA Service Center. USDA Service Center location s can be found at: http://offices.sc.egov.usda.gov/locator/....