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USDA encourages ag producers to prepare for Hurricane Laura

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture reminds communities, farmers and ranchers, families and small businesses in the path of Tropical Storms Marco and Hurricane Laura that the USDA has programs that provide assistance in the wake of disasters. USDA staff in the regional, state, and county offices stand ready to help.

Hurricane Laura update: Laura upgraded to a Category 3 hurricane predicted to make landfall on the upper Texas or southwest Louisiana coast and bring heavy rainfall for the lower Mississippi Valley and Ohio Valley late this week.

The USDA has partnered with FEMA and other disaster-focused organizations and created the Disaster Resource Center. This central source of information utilizes a searchable knowledge base of disaster-related resources powered by agents with subject matter expertise. The Disaster Resource Center website and web tool now provide an easy access point to find USDA disaster information and assistance.

The USDA also developed a disaster assistance discovery tool specifically targeted to rural and agricultural issues. The tool walks producers through five questions that generate personalized results identifying which USDA disaster assistance programs can help them recover from a natural disaster.

The agency also encourages residents and small businesses in impact zones to contact USDA offices which meet their individual needs.

Severe weather forecasts often present the possibility of power outages that could compromise the safety of stored food. USDA encourages those in the path of the storms to take the following precautions:

  • Place appliance thermometers in both the refrigerator and the freezer to ensure temperatures remain food safe during a power outage. Safe temperatures are 40°F or below in the refrigerator, 0°F or below in the freezer.
  • Freeze water in small plastic storage bags or containers prior to a storm. These containers are small enough to fit around the food in the refrigerator and freezer to help keep food cold.
  • Freeze refrigerated items, such as leftovers, milk and fresh meat and poultry that you may not need immediately — this helps keep them at a safe temperature longer.
  • Consider getting 50 pounds of dry or block ice if a lengthy power outage is possible. This amount of ice should keep a fully-stocked 18-cubic-feet freezer cold for two days
  • Group foods together in the freezer — this ‘igloo’ effect helps the food stay cold longer.
  • Keep a few days’ worth of ready-to-eat foods that do not require cooking or cooling.

Owners of meat and poultry producing businesses who have questions or concerns may contact the FSIS Small Plant Help Desk by phone at 1-877-374-7435, by email at [email protected], or 24/7 online.

USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is urging everyone in the potential path of the hurricane to prepare now — not just for yourselves, but also for your pets and your livestock.

Protecting livestock during a disaster

  • Plan for evacuation — know how you will evacuate and where you will go. If it is not feasible to evacuate your livestock, be sure to provide adequate food and water that will last them until you can return, and a strong shelter.
  • If you are planning to move livestock out of state, make sure to contact the State Veterinarian’s Office in the receiving state before you move any animals. You also may contact APHIS Veterinary Services state offices for information and assistance about protecting and moving livestock.
  • Listen to emergency officials — evacuate if asked to do so.

When major disasters strike, USDA has an emergency loan program that provides eligible farmers low-interest loans to help them recover from production and physical losses. USDA’s emergency loan program is triggered when a natural disaster is designated by the Secretary of Agriculture or a natural disaster or emergency is declared by the President under the Stafford Act. USDA also offers additional programs tailored to the needs of specific agricultural sectors to help producers weather the financial impacts of major disasters and rebuild their operations.

USDA’s Farm Service Agency, Risk Management Agency, and Natural Resources Conservation Service remind producers to gather important crop and livestock records and keep them in a safe place as they will likely be needed when inquiring about disaster assistance program eligibility and reporting loss or damage to local USDA Service Centers. More disaster recovery information is available here.

Helping producers weather financial impacts of disasters

Livestock owners and contract growers who experience above normal livestock deaths due to specific weather events, as well as to disease or animal attacks, may qualify for assistance under USDA’s Livestock Indemnity Program.

Livestock, honeybee and farm-raised fish producers whose mechanically harvested or purchased livestock feed was physically damaged or destroyed; or who lost grazing acres or beehives due to an extreme weather event may qualify for assistance. Producers of non-insurable crops who suffer crop losses, lower yields or are prevented from planting agricultural commodities may be eligible for assistance under USDA’s Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program if the losses were due to natural disasters and if a policy is in place for the current crop year.

Helping operations recover after disasters

USDA also can provide financial resources through its Environmental Quality Incentives Program to help with immediate needs and long-term support to help recover from natural disasters and conserve water resources. Assistance may also be available for emergency animal morality disposal from natural disasters and other causes.

Farmers and ranchers needing to rehabilitate farmland damaged by natural disasters can apply for assistance through USDA’s Emergency Conservation Program. USDA also has assistance available for eligible private forest landowners who need to restore forestland damaged by natural disasters through the Emergency Forest Restoration Program. For declared natural disasters that lead to imminent threats to life and property, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service can assist local government sponsors with the cost of implementing recovery efforts like debris removal and streambank stabilization to address natural resource concerns and hazards through the Emergency Watershed Protection Program.

Orchardists and nursery tree growers may be eligible for assistance through USDA’s Tree Assistance Program to help replant or rehabilitate eligible trees, bushes and vines damaged by natural disasters.

Producers with insurance coverage administered Federal crop insurance program should contact their crop insurance agent for issues regarding filing claims. Producers should report crop damage within 72 hours of damage discovery and follow up in writing within 15 days. 

Any views or opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect those of AGDAILY. Comments on this article reflect the sole opinions of their writers.
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