Program can help farmers, ranchers after storm

Hannah Grover
Sherrie Blancett on Tuesday scrolls through photos on her tablet of storm damage to her home on County Road 3000 in Aztec.

FARMINGTON — Months after an August storm flooded parts of Aztec and Flora Vista, commercial farmers and ranchers can apply for funds to cover the cost of repairs to their properties.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's San Juan County Farm Service Agency will use money through the 2015 Emergency Conservation Program to help farmers and ranchers recover from the flooding and strong winds that hit the area on Aug. 26.

To qualify for funding, farmers and ranchers must provide evidence that the damage occurred during the August storm. They must also schedule appointments with the San Juan County Farm Service Agency by Dec. 14.

Sherrie Blancett, who is facing an estimated $20,000 to $30,000 in repairs, is among the people who have applied for assistance through the program. Her application is still being processed.

Blancett and her husband own about 100 acres of land off of County Road 3000, where they keep three horses and 30 to 50 head of beef cattle. They also grow hay on the property.

The couple was without electricity for hours during the Aug. 26 storm, and the road in front of their house was closed when a nearby arroyo spewed flood water over it.

After the storm passed, Blancett said she and her husband inspected the damage. To their relief, none of their animals were hurt, although one of the horses escaped after the storm destroyed the fence.

A barn the couple used for birthing heifers was lifted into the air and carried about 200 yards over a fence and a ditch before being deposited in another pasture. One alfalfa field was covered in sediment, resulting in crop loss. Hay that had been stored in a barn was wet and spoiled. Ditches and the arroyo were filled with debris, including a refrigerator and a car hood. Eight to nine large cottonwood trees had fallen.

"I don't want to ever be in another storm like that," Blancett said.

A barn on the Blancetts' property on County Road 3000 was damaged during an Aug. 26 storm.

Mark Bentley, county executive director for the Farm Service Agency, said the agency applied for funds through the Emergency Conservation Program after the storm. A couple of weeks ago, the request was approved, and the agency will accept funding applications through Dec. 14.

Bentley said the money will help applicants pay for fence restoration, repairing structures and other projects to restore the land, such as scraping silt and debris off of fields.

"I've seen some fields where it's a foot or two feet of silt over the alfalfa," Bentley said.

Hannah Grover covers Aztec and Bloomfield, as well as general news, for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.

Damaged fencing and debris sit on Tuesday near an arroyo at the Blancetts' ranch on County Road 3000 in Aztec.

How to apply

What: Emergency Conservation Program assistance for farmers and ranchers

When: Application are due Dec. 14

Where: Farm Service Agency is located at 1427 W. Aztec Blvd.

More information or to schedule an appointment: Call 505-334-3090, extension 2