Press

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) and Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM.) recently introduced the Emergency Conservation Program Improvement Act to expedite producers’ access to federal disaster relief. The legislation would specifically reform the Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) and Emergency Forest Restoration Program (EFRP) to provide producers impacted by disasters with the option to receive an up-front cost-share, based on existing USDA estimates. The bill would also adjust eligibility for relief to include any wildfire caused or spread due to natural causes, as well as wildfires caused by the federal government. 

“Family farmers and ranchers impacted by wildfires and other horrific natural disasters deserve our help to get back on their feet. Federal relief programs, however, are riddled with long delays and complex bureaucratic paperwork that make it difficult for producers to get aid in a timely fashion. Our bill would give producers the ability to access some emergency assistance up-front so they can begin the recovery process more quickly,” said Senator Fischer, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

“For generations, New Mexico’s farmers and ranchers have been on the frontline of extreme weather conditions – including drought, wildfires, and flooding – that have disrupted their ability to grow sustainable crops and livestock,” said Senator Luján. “I’m proud to introduce bipartisan legislation that will quickly deliver emergency funds to New Mexico producers impacted by wildfires and other extreme conditions. As our state’s agricultural community continues to recover from wildfires, this legislation will help our farmers and ranchers get back on their feet and continue their recovery.”

“We have heard firsthand from our members how burdensome the emergency conservation program can be during times of crisis. We appreciate Senator Fischer’s continued efforts to cut through bureaucratic red-tape and help ensure Nebraska beef cattle producers have access to critical assistance,” said Brenda Masek, President of Nebraska Cattlemen.

“Nebraska has seen its share of weather-related disasters over the past several years, including widespread flooding and large wildfires. These events have unfortunately led many farmers and ranchers to seek disaster assistance through USDA’s Emergency Conservation Program (ECP). Senator Fischer’s Emergency Conservation Program Improvement Act is a must-pass piece of legislation that addresses many of the shortcomings we’ve heard from farmers and ranchers about the program. Rebuilding fencing for livestock or clearing substantial debris from fields shouldn’t be slowed down by bureaucratic red tape. We thank Senator Fischer for offering this legislation to help make some needed improvements to this important program,” Mark McHargue, President, Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation.

Background

The Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) and Emergency Forest Restoration Program (EFRP) were created to help to lessen the burden of natural disasters by providing producers with financial and technical assistance to repair and restore their land. 

These programs, however, are often slow to respond to wildfires, floods, and other disasters. This means producers face significant delays and red tape when trying to get access financial assistance. For many producers, that significant time delay forces them to put off needed repair work, or risk beginning the recovery process without a guarantee of federal help. 

The Emergency Conservation Program Improvement Act would address these issues by reforming the ECP and EFRP. The bill would specifically provide producers impacted by disasters with the option to receive an advance on cost-sharing relief that is based on existing USDA estimates. This expedited option would ensure family farmers and ranchers in dire need of help could begin the critical work of restoring their property to productive levels.   

The Emergency Conservation Program Improvement Act would also reframe eligibility for relief from wildfire damage to include any wildfire caused or spread due to natural causes, as well as wildfires caused by the federal government.  

Click here to read the text of the bill.