When a derecho raced through the eastern third of South Dakota on May 12, 2022, it threw a proverbial wrench into spring planting activities.
Scores of producers found themselves scrambling to clean up metal siding and other debris that had blown onto their fields. Others owned planting equipment that was either damaged or inaccessible due to the storm’s effects on machine sheds and other farm structures.
Help Is on the Way
It’s sometimes hard to find the silver lining when a weather event of this magnitude hits, but there is financial assistance available to farm operations impacted by the storm.
“Producers in 32 counties qualified for the Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) from the May 12 storm alone,” said Steve Dick, who farms in McCook County and serves as state executive director of the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) in South Dakota.
The federal program, he explained, exists to aid farmers experiencing hardship because of a qualifying weather event.
FSA offers cost-share payments of up to 75 percent for implementing approved restoration practices and up to 90 percent for producers who have been certified as “limited resource” or “socially disadvantaged” in addition to new or beginning farmers or ranchers.
The ECP signup window spans 60 days from the day it opens, which varies from county to county based on the time needed to assess overall damage.
“Producers need to go into their county USDA office and let them know about storm damage when reporting their planting acreage,” said Dick.
FSA staff have been assessing damage since the storm hit and will continue to do so throughout the ECP window, but he noted that any documentation is helpful in processing requests. “If they’ve got photos, it doesn’t hurt to bring them along to add to the file,” he said.
Additional Forms of Disaster Support
Producers can also access low-interest financing through the FSA for building grain storage facilities, a top-of-mind concern for many who lost grain bins during the storm.
“One of the things I think producers are running into is they may have had their grain bin insured for the cost of their bin,” said Dick, “but they probably didn’t have it insured for its replacement cost.”
He explained that material shortages and higher transportation costs have caused the price of a new grain storage facility to increase. But a low-interest loan through the Farm Service Agency can help producers manage their costs more efficiently.
It is a requirement to have insurance coverage for a storage facility in order to qualify for an FSA loan.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) likewise offers technical assistance to help producers recover from natural disasters and increase resilience on their land.
“The best thing you can do is go into your local field office and work with our staff on putting a conservation plan in place,” said acting assistant state conservationist Brandon Kottke.
Stream bank restoration, protecting grassed waterways and creating buffers are among the many conservation practices supported by NRCS programming.
Kottke also noted that NRCS is able to work with producers on contract modifications if producers are experiencing weather hardships this year.
Producers should visit their county USDA office to gain full access to the disaster aid and resources available to them. More information is available at www.fsa.usda.gov/state-offices/South-Dakota.