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Creative Development Team
Secretary Vilsack's Action to Aid Disaster Victims

On June 16 and 17, 2011, Secretary Tom Vilsack traveled to Iowa and Nebraska to visit with farmers and others affected by floodwaters along the Missouri River. At a town hall meeting in Glenwood, Iowa, Secretary Vilsack offered advice and assistance available through the United States Department of Agriculture and other federal agencies.

He explained that his heart went out to all of those affected by the historic floods, and, that direction of President Obama, USDA would work to help residents, farmers, ranchers and businesses that have been hard hit by the disaster.

The next day, Senator Ben Nelson joined Vilsack in South Sioux City, Nebraska to meet with the producers and community leaders is to get a firsthand account of the damage and to provide information back to Washington to better deliver disaster programs quickly to effectively respond to this disaster. The meeting provided the information necessary for USDA agencies to implement programs to assist producers as they assess recovery efforts.

Following these meetings Secretary Vilsack reached out to a host of parties - including representatives from the Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) - to provide feedback on some of the most pressing questions raised. This is what he learned, and communicated to attendees in a letter sent June 21, 2011:

  • The Governors of both Iowa and Nebraska are in the process of requesting a Secretarial Disaster Declaration that will provide USDA with the ability to trigger the Disaster Relief programs under the 2008 Farm Bill, including the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments (SURE) Program and the Livestock Indemnity Program, among others. The Governors will also be requesting a Presidential Emergency Declaration. If that declaration is approved, FEMA can accept requests for reimbursement for expenses incurred that mitigated the impact of the flooding or prevented the damages from occurring in the first place.
  • In conversations with General Temple and Colonel Ruch, Secretary Vilsack strongly suggested that the Army Corps significantly increase its communication efforts in the short term (i.e. what will likely happen in the next few weeks to few months, as well as sharing current maps) and the long term (i.e. the priorities for the regulation of the Missouri River; how they are set; whether they can be changed and if so, how; why water was not let out during the winter; why it cannot be stored for longer periods now; how folks can effect change in the policy, etc.). He will follow up my conversations with them with a letter to the Secretary of the Army. There is a need for a full evaluation of steps taken and any mistakes made and how long-term strategies should be reviewed and/or modified.
  • Senator Ben Nelson will be asking FEMA about the start date for the event as it relates to flood insurance for homeowners. I know there was some question about the June 1 start date and when flood coverage would go into effect.
  • Secretary Vilsack has asked USDA’s Farm Service Agency staff to be on daily calls with the Incident Command Center that discusses the flood and to use our website and other tools to share information with as wide an audience as possible.
  • When crop insurance indemnities are paid out, they are based on average yields established over a 10-year period. Obviously, when one year is a significant loss, that can really skew the average. The system allows for a "plug" yield to be inserted that lessens the impact of that really bad year. There are also yield floors in the program that guard against too much fluctuation. It was suggested that producers meet with their agents to discuss the details of their individual operations.
Creative Development Team

From left: Farmers Steve Roth, Done Rief, Dale Rief, Clifford Dilts discuss topics covered during a town hall meeting with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack at the Glenwood Community High School in Glenwood, Iowa on Thursday, June 16, 2011. Farmers, local and regional media listened and questioned Secretary Vilsack on the cause of the floodwaters along the Missouri River affecting Iowa and Nebraska. Secretary Vilsack offered advice and assistance available through the United States Department of Agriculture and other federal agencies.

From left: Farmers Steve Roth, Done Rief, Dale Rief, Clifford Dilts discuss topics covered during a town hall meeting with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack at the Glenwood Community High School in Glenwood, Iowa on Thursday, June 16, 2011. Farmers, local and regional media listened and questioned Secretary Vilsack on the cause of the floodwaters along the Missouri River affecting Iowa and Nebraska. Secretary Vilsack offered advice and assistance available through the United States Department of Agriculture and other federal agencies.

David Sieck a farmer from Mills County Iowa questions Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack during a town hall meeting at the Glenwood Community High School in Glenwood, Iowa on Thursday, June 16, 2011. Farmers, local and regional media listened and questioned Secretary Vilsack on the cause of the floodwaters along the Missouri River affecting Iowa and Nebraska. Secretary Vilsack offered advice and assistance available through the United States Department of Agriculture and other federal agencies.

David Sieck a farmer from Mills County Iowa questions Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack during a town hall meeting at the Glenwood Community High School in Glenwood, Iowa on Thursday, June 16, 2011. Farmers, local and regional media listened and questioned Secretary Vilsack on the cause of the floodwaters along the Missouri River affecting Iowa and Nebraska. Secretary Vilsack offered advice and assistance available through the United States Department of Agriculture and other federal agencies.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack (left) and Senator Ben Nelson (right), Nebraska, a member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry held a town hall meeting at the Marina Inn in South Sioux City, Nebraska Friday, June 17, 2011, on the floodwaters along the Missouri River affecting Iowa and Nebraska. The goal of the meeting with the producers and community leaders is to get a firsthand look and provide information back to Washington to better deliver disaster programs quickly to effectively respond to this disaster. The meeting provided the information necessary for USDA agencies to implement programs to assist producers as they assess recovery efforts. USDA administers many programs to assist with recovery in rural areas reeling from natural disasters. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack (left) and Senator Ben Nelson (right), Nebraska, a member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry held a town hall meeting at the Marina Inn in South Sioux City, Nebraska Friday, June 17, 2011, on the floodwaters along the Missouri River affecting Iowa and Nebraska. The goal of the meeting with the producers and community leaders is to get a firsthand look and provide information back to Washington to better deliver disaster programs quickly to effectively respond to this disaster. The meeting provided the information necessary for USDA agencies to implement programs to assist producers as they assess recovery efforts. USDA administers many programs to assist with recovery in rural areas reeling from natural disasters. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols

The Missouri river flooded hundreds of acres in Nebraska and Iowa. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visited the area on Friday, June 17, 2011, and spoke to agriculture producers and community leaders. The goal of the meetings was to get a firsthand look and provide that information back to Washington necessary to better deliver disaster programs expeditiously to effectively respond to this disaster. The United States Department of Agriculture agencies have programs to assist producers as they assess recovery efforts to assist with recovery in rural areas reeling from a natural disaster. USDA and the entire federal family have been working with state and local officials to provide relief to residents, farmers, ranchers and businesses.

The Missouri river flooded hundreds of acres in Nebraska and Iowa. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visited the area on Friday, June 17, 2011, and spoke to agriculture producers and community leaders. The goal of the meetings was to get a firsthand look and provide that information back to Washington necessary to better deliver disaster programs expeditiously to effectively respond to this disaster. The United States Department of Agriculture agencies have programs to assist producers as they assess recovery efforts to assist with recovery in rural areas reeling from a natural disaster. USDA and the entire federal family have been working with state and local officials to provide relief to residents, farmers, ranchers and businesses.