USDA has approved disaster assistance valued at $209 million to help farmers, landowners and communities recover from the effects of Superstorm Sandy. Eligible farmers who’ve already applied should be able to get financial assistance immediately, according to USDA.

Funding will be provided through USDA’s Emergency Conservation Program (ECP), Emergency Forest Restoration Program (EFRP) and Emergency Watershed Protection Program to help rebuild and repair land damaged by flooding and other events in 12 states.

“Landowners, individuals and communities along our Eastern Seaboard have endured incredible hardships because of the intensity and havoc wrecked on their livelihoods by this historic storm,” says Tom Vilsack, USDA ag secretary. “This funding will help to rebuild communities, while states can use the funds to carry out emergency recovery measures. At the same time, this assistance keeps farmers on the farm, ranchers on the ranch, and landowners on their land, helping to keep American agriculture profitable.”

The Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) will contribute $15 million to qualified producers to help remove debris from farmland, restore livestock fences and conservation structures, and grade and shape farmland damaged by the natural disaster. Eligibility will be determined by Farm Service Agency (FSA) county committees based on on-site inspections of damaged land and considering the type and extent of damage.

For land to be eligible, the natural disaster must create new conservation problems that, if unattended:

• would impair or endanger the land;

• materially affect its productive capacity;

• represent unusual damage that, except for wind erosion, is not likely to recur frequently in the area and;

• be so costly to repair that federal assistance is or will be required to return the land to productive ag use.

Another $23 million in payments will be available through the EFRP to eligible owners of non-industrial private forest land in order to carry out emergency measures to restore damaged land. Community recovery funding totaling $171 million will be eligible through the Emergency Watershed Protection Program.

Producers and forest owners in eligible counties of these states are eligible for assistance: Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia and West Virginia.

FSA has been collecting ECP and EFRP applications in anticipation of the funding becoming available and will begin providing assistance to eligible landowners immediately. Applications will continue to be accepted through May 31. For more information on eligibility requirements and applications, visit a local FSA county office or the FSA website at disaster.fsa.usda.gov. For information on Presidential Disaster Declaration, please visit www.disasterassistance.gov/.