New program could help Alexander County farmers with flood relief

For Alexander County, Illinois, farmers hit hard by the New Year’s flooding, there’s little hope of planting a crop this year. But one program is working to change that and, if it succeeds, it could help get farmers back on their feet.

The floodwaters are gone, replaced with something far more destructive to farmers. Buried underneath ripped up trees, sand and silt from the Mississippi River are Jason Spaulding’s fields. He says the damage is the worst he’s ever seen.

"The amount of sand and the amount of trees, and drift, and everything surpasses that of ’93,” said Spaulding.

You may think cleaning up and taking out those heavy trees is the hardest part for farmers to clean up. But, actually, the problem goes much deeper, to the heavy sand debris from the river sitting on farmer’s fields and preventing them from planting, In some places it’s just a few inches, but in others there’s as much as five feet covering fields.

"Crops will not grow in this kind of environment, obviously," Spaulding said.

It’s why Brandi Bruce, the executive director at the Union-AlexanderPulaski Farm Service Agency branch will be taking applications for the Emergency Conservation Program. If approved locally, then nationally, ECP could help farmers cover part of the cost to clean up their fields.

"We’re here to help. We want to provide for our producers, and so anything we can do to help them get money is good," Bruce said.

Spaulding says he’ll apply for ECP because without its help, these fields will likely have to stay like this.

"Definitely, yes. Any kind of help over here would be greatly appreciated,” Spaulding said.

He says this kind of help could give their fields and others like it a shot at growing crops again.

Farmers can apply for the Emergency Conservation Program from March 14 through May 12. To apply, farmers can go to the Farm Service Agency office in Anna, Illinois. Their property will then be scheduled for an on-site inspection of the flood damage.

Approved applications will be forwarded on to the state and national level for approval. If the ECP is funded, farmers can be reimbursed for up to 75 percent of the field damage, Bruce said. Damage claims will be accepted from $1,000 up to $200,000 for things like debris, gravel and sand removal costs.

For questions on ECP or to apply, contact the Union-AlexanderPulaski Farm Service Agency bureau at 201 Springfield Ave., Anna, IL or call 618-833-5666.

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