WASHINGTON, Aug. 31, 2008 – Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer today announced USDA is working closely with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and has identified personnel and resources to assist them in the preparation for Hurricane Gustav's landfall.
"As Hurricane Gustav approaches, USDA is prepared to provide food, emergency housing and other resources in the region," said Schafer. "We are committed to working tirelessly in getting all of the resources we can offer to those who could be in need as a result of the storm. Please know, USDA is watching this storm closely and will expedite delivery of these services however we can, especially life sustaining food commodities."
USDA has additional personnel on stand-by for immediate deployment to the affected area after the hurricane makes landfall.
USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service has provided information about how to keep food safe during power outages to news media in the areas of Hurricane Gustav's projected path. Consumers with food safety questions can "Ask Karen," the FSIS virtual representative available 24 hours a day at AskKaren.gov. The toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) is available in English and Spanish and can be reached from l0 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Eastern Time) Monday through Friday. Recorded food safety messages are available 24 hours a day.
USDA's Food and Nutrition Service with the assistance of USDA's Farm Service Agency and Agricultural Marketing Service responded to a state request and funded the purchase of infant formula and baby food that will be delivered today to the two large shelters set up in Alexandria and Shreveport, La. USDA has identified food inventories to support congregate meal service should it be needed. USDA is prepared to deliver additional commodities if needed. USDA also is working in advance with States should disaster food assistance be needed.
USDA's Rural Development is ready to help individuals needing payment assistance on their existing USDA Rural Development Single and Multi-family loans who are affected by Hurricane Gustav. They are encouraged to contact the Centralized Servicing Center at (800) 414-1226. Rural Development also will give rural communities and businesses priority consideration for funding through its Rural Community Facilities programs and the Rural Business Enterprise Grant program to help with programs and rehabilitation needed as a result of Hurricane Gustav.
The Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas State and County Emergency Boards, chaired by the USDA Farm Service Agency, are on stand-by to assist with the response and quickly assess agricultural needs.
The USDA Risk Management Agency is prepared to authorize emergency loss procedures that streamline, on a crop specific basis, certain loss determinations and payments.
Additional information and updates about USDA's hurricane relief efforts and information about food safety during power outages are posted on the Web site at http://www.usda.gov/safety .