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USDA helps farmers, ranchers affected by Hurricane Laura

Helicopter video shows extensive flooding and storm damage from Hurricane Laura in the Cameron, La., area.
Helicopter video shows extensive flooding and storm damage from Hurricane Laura in the Cameron, La., area.(Source: WMBF)
Published: Sep. 19, 2020 at 5:10 PM CDT
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WASHINGTON, D.C. (WIBW) - The U.S. Department of Agriculture is helping farmers, ranchers and communities that were affected by Hurricane Laura.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says it is reminding rural communities, farmers and ranchers, families and small businesses affected by recent devastation caused by Hurricane Laura that it has programs providing assistance in the wake of disasters.

The USDA said it has staff in regional, state and county offices that are actively responding, providing emergency response staffing and a variety of program flexibilities and other assistance to residents, agricultural producers and impacted communities at large.

“Hurricane Laura has taken a heavy toll, but USDA stands ready to assist those in need,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. “This Administration remains committed to supporting the people and agricultural producers in the Gulf Coast, and we will be there, providing all the support we can, for as long as we can, to get them back on their feet.”

According to the USDA, some ways it is helping residents in Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas and Mississippi recover from Hurricane Laura include ensuring food safety when returning home, farm production and conservation agencies helping financial impacts, helping operations recover and helping individuals recover after disasters.

The USDA said as residents return to their homes, its Food Safety and Inspection Service is helping make sure they are taking the right steps to reduce the risk of foodborne illness. Food safety tips after power outages can be found here. Information on protecting livestock can be found here, and information on protecting household pets and service animals can be found here.

According to the Department, the APHIS Animal Care program oversees the welfare of certain animals exhibited to the public, bred for commercial sale and used in medical research and is actively involved in the hurricane response effort. It said additionally, inspectors are now checking those facilities that were in the path of the storm to determine damage and ensure the wefare of animals.

The USDA also said it has an emergency loan program providing eligible farmers low interest loans to help recover from production and physical losses. It said it also offers programs tailored to the needs of specific agricultural sectors to help ease financial impacts of major disasters and rebuild operations.

The department said livestock owners and contract growers experiencing above normal livestock deahts due to specific weather events as wellas disease, injury or animal attacks, may qualify for assistance in its Livestock Indemnity Program. It said 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 extreme weather may qualify for assistance.

According to the USDA, producers of non insurable crops suffering crop losses, lower yeilds or have been prevented from planting agricultural commodities may be eligible for assistance under its Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program if losses happened because of natural disasters.

The USDA said farmers and ranchers suffering damage to working lands and livestock mortality because of qualifying natural disaster are encouraged to contact their local USDA Service Center. It said it has various programs to help producers manage operations.

The department also said it can provide financial resources through its Environmental Quality Incentives Program helping immediate needs and long term support to help recover from natural disasters and conserve water resources. It said assistance may also be available to emergency animal mortality disposal from natural disasters and other causes.

According to the USDA, farmers and ranchers needing to rehabilitate framland damaged by natural disasters can apply for its Emergency Conservation Program. It said it also has assistance available for eligible private forest landowners needing to restore forestland damaged by natural disasters through the Emergency Forest Restoration Program.

The department said orchardists and nursery tree growerscould be eligible for assistance through its Tree Assistance Program helping to replant or rehabilitate eligible trees, bushes and vines damaged by natural disasters.

The USDA said in the aftermath of disaster its Food and Nutrition Service works with local, state and nongovernmental organizations providing emergency nutrition assistance like food packages and infant formula to houses, shelters and mass feeding sites serving those in need. It said after a request from states, it also provides and works withlocal authorities to provide Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits.

According to the department, as Hurricane Laura wreaked havoc, FNS responded by allowing Louisiana to run D-SNAP, along with approving waivers to allow for hot food purchases with SNAP benefits and letting the state reissue mass replacements of SNAP benefits due to food loss. It said Louisiana was also able to have a Disaster Household Distribution of foods from the USDA which helped distribute food boxes to countless people impacted by the hurricane.

The department said similar programs have been put in place in Texas and additional flexibilities have been allowed in these states and Puerto Rico to help with the burden on administrative staff and participants as they recover.

The USDA said when disaster recovery efforts begin, emergency nutrition assistance and flexibilities requester by state and approved by FNS will be posted here.

According to the USDA, its National Insitute of Food and Agriculture provides support for disaster education through its Extension Disaster Education Network. It said 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 delivering services to residents affected by disaster. It said EDEN’s goal is to improve America’s ability to mitigate, prepare for, prevent, respond to and recover from disasters. It said EDEN helps county based Extension education share research based resources in local disaster management and recovery efforts. It said EDEN offers a searchable database of Extension professionals, resources, member universities and disaster agency websites, education materials to help residents deal with a wide variety of hazards and food and agricultural defense educational resources.

The department said producers with coverage through the Risk Management Agency administered Federal crop insruance program should ocntact their crop insurace agent for issues regarding filing claims. It said those that purchased crop insuracne will be paid for covered losses and producers should report crop damage within 72 hours of damage discover and follow up in writing within 15 days. it said the Approved Insurance Providers, loss adjusters and agents are versed and well trained in handling these evets. It said as a part of its commitment to customer service, RMA is working with AIPS selling and servicing crop insurance policies to ensure enough loss adujusters will be available to process claims in affected areas as quickly as possible. For more information, visit the RMA website.

The USDA said its disaster resources website is meant to help residents learn more about its disaster preparedness and response. For imorefnormation on its disaster assistance programs, contact your local USDA Service Center.

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