Merkley, Wyden, Brown announce financial assistance for farmers and ranchers impacted by fires

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, with Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is providing access to emergency conservation service grants to help Wasco and Sherman county farmers and ranchers restore lands scorched by recent wildfires.

“This assistance is a step toward recovery for the farmers and ranchers whose crops have been lost to fires,” Merkley said. “While we need significant funding for recovery beyond the usual crop insurance or disaster assistance, conservation treatments will help restore land in the aftermath of this devastation. I will continue to work with my colleagues to push for the emergency aid our farmers and ranchers need.”

“This federal aid is a must to help the farmers and ranchers whose livelihoods have been devastated by this year’s destructive wildfires,”Wyden said. “This assistance represents an important piece of the response to help in the wake of this emergency, and I will continue to press federal officials for all the resources needed to help these businesses in Wasco and Sherman counties.”

“Oregon’s wildfire season started weeks earlier than usual and has already devastated many communities,” Brown said. “I’m making state resources available to impacted families and businesses, and additional federal assistance will provide much welcomed relief to Oregon farmers.”

On July 20, Merkley, Wyden and Brown asked Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to provide emergency aid for farmers and ranchers affected by wildland fires raging across tens of thousands of acres in Oregon, claiming the life of one farmer. They noted that wheat is a top-10 Oregon commodity, valued at nearly $186 million, and that this year’s wildfires are expected to have a significant impact on the statewide economy.

On July 27, Merkley, Wyden and Brown also pressed Perdue to ensure that some of the $12 billion in aid planned for agricultural trade war relief also be available to Oregon farmers devastated by the recent fires.

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service assistance will help farmers and ranchers offset the cost of critical post-fire conservation treatments, which combat soil erosion, restore vegetative ground cover, and control the spread of invasive annual grasses such as cheatgrass and medusahead, which are prone to increase after a fire.

Farmers and ranchers in areas burned by the Substation, Boxcar, and Jackknife fires are eligible to apply for financial assistance. Applications must be submitted by Friday, Aug. 10.

Conservation activities include planting range grasses and cover crops to protect damaged soil; spraying herbicides for weed control; prescribed grazing; obstruction removal, and more.

The funding is available through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Landowners may apply at the USDA service center in The Dalles (2325 River Road in The Dalles) or the UDSA Moro Service Center (302 Scott Ave in Moro) by Aug. 10. Applicants may also contact Clinton Whitten, soil conservationist, at 541-289-8559 x112, and visit the Oregon EQIP website to download an application and for more information.