SKOWHEGAN — The Somerset County Farm Service Agency is working on possible financial help for tree farmers and others in the wake of a July 18 microburst that cut a path of destruction through several towns, damaging property and downing trees.

Assistance may be available under the Emergency Forest Restoration Program for nonindustrial private forest owners who suffered severe damage, said County Executive Director Scott Speck. The farm agency is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“The program is for forests that are used for timber, where people will work to harvest them. It’s like a working wood lot,” Speck said by phone Thursday. “It has to be nonindustrial — you’re basically a tree farmer — that’s the kind of person we would help with the situation.”

Speck said only about $9,000 in assistance so far has been earmarked for Somerset County, but that amount could grow if more people report damage and apply for assistance.

The microburst generated tornado warnings in Somerset and Franklin counties and reports of golf ball-size hail caused severe damage in towns that included St. Albans, Ripley and Harmony in Somerset County.

A microburst is a localized column of sinking air — a downdraft — within a thunderstorm and can be as destructive as a tornado.

Tree farmers and others might be eligible for assistance if the damage is caused by a natural disaster to natural resources on land, that if untreated, would impair or endanger the natural resources on the land and affect the use of the land, according to a farm service news release.

A producer qualifying for assistance may receive financial assistance not to exceed 75 percent of the eligible cost of restoration. The emergency measures must restore forest health and forest-related resources.

Remedial action would include removing debris, site preparation, seeding and restoring conservation structures.

To be eligible for assistance, the following guidelines must be met:

• An application for financial assistance — form FSA-848 — has been filed.

• The local County Committee or its representative has conducted an on site inspection of the damaged area.

• The agency responsible for technical assistance, such as the state forestry agency, has made a needs determination, which may include cubic yards of earthmoving required for rehabilitation.

farm agency part of usda

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow

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