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Aid available for Mississippi landowners impacted by drought, beetle infestation


Help is on the way for Mississippi forest landowners impacted by last year’s drought and the subsequent infestation of beetles that destroyed trees across the state.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Monday approved Emergency Forest Restoration Program (EFRP) signup in all 82 counties in Mississippi. A 120-day period for landowners to apply for aid will run until August 15.

The move by the federal government follows a letter issued to Vilsack by each member of the state’s congressional delegation urging the USDA to allow Mississippians to access emergency forest restoration funds to overcome widespread damages caused by the drought and beetle infestation.

Preliminary reports indicate that Mississippi has already lost more than 12.5 million trees, including nearly 80,000 acres of pine mortality and at least $96 million in timber losses. This came as a result of the notorious southern pine beetle making an unwelcome appearance as well as the Ips beetle population showing up in unprecedented droves.

“The drought got the trees very stressed from lack of water. A pine tree has to have water to produce sap. Sap is the defense mechanism against the beetles,” Mississippi Loggers Association executive director David Livingston said on MidDays with Gerard Gibert. “It was a chain reaction and we’ve had an incredibly high population of Ips beetles, which is unprecedented.”

In late March, all 82 Mississippi counties were labeled disaster designations due to the excessively dry conditions and the ramifications that followed. Now, funding has been made available for local farmers and landowners to seek assistance.

Requirements for those seeking financial aid:

  • Restoration must be completed to meet the National Resources Conservation Service and/or State Forestry Agency technical standards.
  • Participants must document and keep records of all costs incurred, including costs associated with personal labor, to complete the restoration activities.
  • The minimum qualifying cost of restoration is $1,000.
  • The program’s payment limitation is $500,000.

“I want to thank our Congressional Delegation for their efforts in requesting assistance for Mississippi’s tree farmers and forest landowners who were terribly impacted by the historic drought of 2023,” Mississippi Agriculture Commissioner Andy Gipson told SuperTalk Mississippi News. “The Emergency Forest Restoration Program will provide much-needed relief to begin restoring Mississippi forests damaged by the drought and, subsequently, the southern pine beetles. I highly encourage all affected landowners to contact their local USDA Farm Service Agency office for assistance.”

EFRP financial assistance is not provided upfront but is reimbursed after restoration is complete at 75 percent of the lesser of the actual costs incurred or allowable cost. If an EFRP application is approved, the participant is expected to perform restoration/conservation practices based on the FSA-848A, Cost-Share Agreement, and Restoration Plan.

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