Help Available for Hurricane Victims

Farmers experiencing losses due to Hurricane Irene damage can turn to the USDA for emergency assistance and farm loans.

by Dani Yokhna
Tractor on a farm moving debris caused by Hurricane Irene, barns in background
Courtesy FEMA/Tim Burkitt
Hobby farmers and ranchers might be eligble for USDA aid to help with Hurricane Irene cleanup.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the USDA is ready to deploy personnel and resources to assist the efforts of federal, state and local authorities in response to Hurricane Irene.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to all who have suffered losses caused by this massive storm,” Vilsack says. “USDA is ready to provide food, emergency assistance and other resources to the affected areas. We continue to closely coordinate with many partners to meet the immediate and plan for the long-term needs of those affected by Hurricane Irene.”

Farmer and Rancher Assistance
The USDA is encouraging farmers who have crop or physical damage, to contact their local Farm Service Agency service center as soon as possible.

The affected state and county emergency boards, chaired by the USDA FSA, are assisting with the Hurricane Irene response efforts and quickly assessing agricultural needs and determining the storm’s impact on crops. Emergency loans are available to farmers through the FSA’s Emergency Loan Program, which provides low-interest EM loans for crop and livestock production and physical losses. The loans are available in counties categorized under a presidential declaration or secretarial disaster designation.

Assistance also might be available through the FSA Emergency Conservation Program funds, subject to the availability of funds. Sign-up for ECP funds will be held in FSA State Committee-authorized locations. Applications will be processed subject to available funding. Farmers and ranchers also might qualify for assistance for any crop or livestock losses if they meet certain eligibility requirements.

Assistance is available through the following FSA assistance programs:

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  • Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments Program: For crop-revenue losses from quantity or quality deficiencies only in counties and contiguous counties declared disaster areas by the agriculture secretary or in cases where a farm’s overall production loss exceeds 50 percent
  • Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program: For farmers and ranchers who previously submitted an application for coverage for noninsured-crop losses
  • Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey bees and Farm-raised Fish: For emergency relief to producers of livestock, Honey bees and farm-raised fish who suffered losses from disaster, such as adverse weather, or other conditions, such as hurricanes and wildfires, not adequately covered by any other disaster program
  • Livestock Indemnity Program: For assistance to livestock producers for livestock deaths from disaster events in excess of normal mortality
  • The Tree Assistance Program: For partial reimbursement to orchardists and nursery-tree growers for replanting, salvage, pruning, debris removal and land preparation if losses due to natural disasters exceed 15 percent
  • Debt Set Aside: For producers who have existing direct loans with FSA in counties declared or contiguous to counties declared as disasters; under the DSA program, up to one full year’s payment can be moved to the end of the loan

Assistance also is available for crop producers who previously purchased crop insurance through programs offered by the USDA Risk Management Agency. RMA is prepared to authorize emergency-loss procedures that streamline, on a crop specific basis, certain loss determinations and payments.

Additionally, USDA staff is coordinating closely with agricultural industry representatives to address specific needs as they arise.

Housing Assistance
USDA Rural Development is encouraging residents affected by Hurricane Irene to immediately apply for funding assistance under rural, single-family housing loan and grant programs. Funds are available for housing repair, rehabilitation and home purchases. For home financing, USDA will assist with expediting lender approval and approval for access to the Guaranteed Underwriting Services and offer streamlined loan processing. Individuals needing payment assistance on their existing USDA Rural Development single and multi-family loans are encouraged to contact the Centralized Servicing Center at 800-414-1226.

Community Assistance
The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service state operations are prepared to work with local communities to determine Emergency Watershed Protection requests in Hurricane Irene disaster areas. The program provides technical and financial assistance to preserve life and property threatened by excessive erosion and flooding. Owners, managers and users of public, private or tribal lands are eligible for EWP assistance if their watershed area has been damaged.

The NRCS can fund immediate actions necessary to address threats to life or property (exigencies). Exigency funds are provided and approved quickly to lessen the threat to lives and property that exists as a result of storms or flooding. For example, exigency funding can be used to remove stream blockages and debris. Debris can include twisted trees and other woody vegetation as well as home construction materials. The removal of stream debris is important because obstructions increase the risk of flooding thus the further risk to life and property. Other conditions where EWP exigency funds can be used include embankment stabilization and erosion control around culverts or bridges of open roads. If these areas are not protected and stabilized after a storm or flooding there is increased threat to life and property.

The USDA encourages farmers, ranchers, producers, landowners and rural communities to contact their local Rural Development office for housing, business or community assistance information or their local NRCS office for help with debris removal.

Additional information about these assistance programs, safety tips and updates about USDA’s hurricane-relief efforts are posted on the USDA website. Click on the hurricane relief link.

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