2012-01-18 / World

USDA reveals aid deal

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The nation’s top agriculture official is expected to announce today more than $300 million in emergency assistance to 33 states and Puerto Rico to help them recover from an unusually intense year for natural disasters across the U.S.

Utah and Missouri will receive the most disaster aid, together taking in $109 million, or more than one-third of the $308 million in aid from Department of Agriculture watershed and conservation emergency funds, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack told The Associated Press ahead of a formal announcement later today.

Flooding last spring in Utah inundated thousands of acres of farmland, costing farmers tens of millions of dollars lost to damaged and destroyed crops or delayed planting. Utah will receive $60 million in watershed money for repair work and preventative measures in 13 cities and counties hit by floods within the last 13 months, said Bronson Smart, state conservation engineer for the U. S. Natural Resources Conservation Service.

He said his agency requested that amount to deal with two rounds of flooding, including flash flooding in southern Utah in December 2010 and flooding last spring in northern and central Utah caused by a record snowpack.

Missouri suffered months of flooding along the Missouri River after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers authorized unprecedented releases from reservoirs in the northern river basin all summer to deal with unexpectedly heavy rain in May and above-average mountain snowpack. Farmers in the Missouri Bootheel, meanwhile, saw their crops swamped when the Army Corps of Engineers exploded a levee to relieve water pressure on an upriver town in Illinois. The intentional breach sent water cascading over thousands of acres of prime farmland.

Missouri will receive around $49 million, of which $35 million will come from the watershed program and the rest from the Farm Service Agency’s Emergency Conservation Program.

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