RALEIGH — Staff of the U.S. Department of Agriculture is reminding farmers and ranchers, families and small businesses that were affected by Hurricane Matthew that USDA has several programs that provide assistance before, during and after disasters.
“USDA has offices in nearly every county in the U.S., and we want to remind people that we have a variety of services that may be useful in challenging times like this one,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
USDA encourages residents and small businesses in the potential impact zones to contact the following offices to meet their individual needs:
Property and Shelter
When floods destroy or severely damage residential property, USDA Rural Development can assist with providing priority hardship application processing for single family housing. Under a disaster designation, USDA Rural Development can issue a priority letter for next available multi-family housing units. While these programs do not normally have disaster assistance authority, many of USDA Rural Development programs can help provide financial relief to small businesses hit by natural disasters, including low-interest loans to community facilities, water environmental programs, businesses and cooperatives and to rural utilities. More information can be found on the Rural Development website or by contacting the State Offices.
Crop and Livestock Loss
The USDA Farm Service Agency administers many safety-net programs to help producers recover from eligible losses, including the Livestock Indemnity Program, the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program, Emergency Forest Restoration Program (EFRP) and the Tree Assistance Program. The FSA Emergency Conservation Program provides funding and technical assistance for farmers and ranchers to rehabilitate farmland damaged by natural disasters. Producers located in counties that received a primary or contiguous disaster designation are eligible for low-interest emergency loans to help them recover from production and physical losses. Compensation also is available to producers who purchased coverage through the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program, which protects non-insurable crops against natural disasters that result in lower yields, crop losses or prevented planting. USDA encourages farmers and ranchers to contact their local FSA office to learn what documents can help the local office expedite assistance, such as farm records, receipts and pictures of damages or losses.
Producers should use form FSA-576, Notice of Loss, to report prevented planting and failed acres in order to establish or retain FSA program eligibility. Prevented planting acreage must be reported no later than 15 calendar days after the final planting date as established by FSA and USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA). Producers must file a Notice of Loss for failed acres on all crops including grasses in a timely fashion, often within 15 days of the occurrence or when the losses become apparent. Producers of hand-harvested crops must notify FSA of damage or loss within 72 hours of when the date of damage or loss first becomes apparent.
Producers with coverage through the RMA administered federal crop insurance program should contact their crop insurance agent. Those who purchased crop insurance will be paid for covered losses. Producers should report crop damage within 72 hours of damage discovery and follow up in writing within 15 days.
Community Recovery Resources
For declared natural disasters that lead to imminent threats to life and property, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) 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. NRCS staff is coordinating with state partners to complete damage assessments in preparation for sponsor assistance requests.
NRCS also can help producers with damaged agricultural lands caused by natural disasters such as floods. The NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) provides financial assistance to repair and prevent excessive soil erosion that can result from high rainfall events and flooding. Conservation practices supported through EQIP protect the land and aid in recovery, can build the natural resource base, and might help mitigate loss in future events.
USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture provides support for disaster education through the Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN). EDEN is a collaborative multi-state effort with land-grant universities and Cooperative Extension Services across the country, using research-based education and resources to improve the delivery of services to citizens affected by disasters. EDEN’s goal is to improve the nation’s ability to mitigate, prepare for, prevent, respond to and recover from disasters. , EDEN equips county-based Extension educators to share research-based resources in local disaster management and recovery efforts. The EDEN website offers a searchable database of Extension professionals, resources, member universities and disaster agency websites, education materials to help people deal with a wide range of hazards, and food and agricultural defense educational resources.
For complete details and eligibility requirements regarding USDA’s disaster assistance programs, contact a local USDA Service Center (http://offices.sc.egov.usda.gov/locator/app). More information about USDA disaster assistance (http://www.usda.gov/documents/fact-sheet-usda-programs-assist-individuals-small-businesses.pdf) as well as other disaster resources is available on the USDA Disaster Resource Center website.