WASHINGTON, Oct. 9, 2015 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reminds farmers and ranchers, families and small businesses affected by the recent floods in North and South Carolina that USDA has programs to assist with their recovery efforts. State and county staff in USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), Farm Service Agency (FSA), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Risk Management Agency (RMA) and Rural Development (RD) offices stand ready to help.
"The catastrophic flooding in the Carolinas has caused unimaginable hardship for many producers, including farmers who are waiting for fields to dry so they can assess the damage and harvest what is salvageable of their crops," said FSA Administrator Val Dolcini. "I encourage producers who experienced losses to take advantage of available disaster assistance programs and loans to alleviate part of the financial burden caused by devastating floods."
Dolcini adds that farmers and ranchers should contact their FSA office to set an appointment during this busy season. He said it is important to learn what documents can help the local office expedite assistance, such as farm records, receipts and pictures of damages or losses.
FSA administers a suite of 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. Additionally, 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 is also 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.
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 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.
USDA's NRCS can also 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 may help mitigate loss in future events. For declared natural disasters that lead to imminent threats to life and property, such as those declared this week in South Carolina, 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.
"The flood event taking place in North and South Carolina is of historic proportions. As the flood waters recede, we may begin seeing land damage such as erosion that happened not only during the rainfall events, but was caused by the receding waters," said NRCS Chief Jason Weller. "It is critical that farmers, ranchers and forestland owners have financial and technical resources available to protect their natural resources and operations now and as recovery from these disasters begins."
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.
"No one knows if or when situations like the floods that have devastated the Carolinas may happen. Federal crop insurance provides an effective farm safety net to help farmers recover," said RMA Administrator Brandon Willis.
Producers should report crop damage within 72 hours of damage discovery and follow up in writing within15 days.
USDA's FNS coordinates with state, local and voluntary organizations to provide food for shelters and other mass feeding sites; and issue Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits. Under certain circumstances, states also can release, with FNS approval, USDA Foods to disaster relief agencies to distribute directly to households that are in need.
When floods destroy or severely damage residential property, RD can assist with providing priority hardship application processing for single family housing. Under a disaster designation, RD can issue a priority letter for next available multi-family housing units. RD also provides low-interest loans to community facilities, water environmental programs, businesses and cooperatives and to rural utilities.
Visit the Drought page to learn more about USDA disaster preparedness and response. For more information on USDA disaster assistance programs, please contact your local USDA Service Center. To find your local USDA Service Center go to http://offices.usda.gov.
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