WASHINGTON, Sept. 12, 2018 - The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reminds rural communities, farmers and ranchers, families and small businesses in the path of Hurricane Florence that USDA has programs that provide assistance in the wake of disasters. USDA staff in the regional, state and county offices that stand ready and eager to help.
“If we know anything about American farmers, it’s that they can handle adversity. Even so, USDA is ready to help with the resources they need to be able to weather storms and recover from damages,” U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said. “As hurricanes approach, we have USDA personnel in counties throughout the nation, standing by to assist in any way possible.”
Hurricane Florence currently is forecast to make landfall Saturday morning near the border between North Carolina and South Carolina, and then travel westward through South Carolina.
At the same time, Tropical Storm Isaac’s path may include Puerto Rico and the American Virgin Islands by Saturday morning. In the Pacific, Tropical Storm Olivia is forecast to move over the Hawaiian Islands late Tuesday into Wednesday, and Super Typhoon Mangkhut is moving away from Guam.
USDA encourages those in the path of the storms to take precautions to protect the safety of their food and animals.
Tips to best protect food safety before losing power:
- Keep appliance thermometers in both the refrigerator and the freezer to ensure temperatures remain food safe during a power outage. Safe temperatures are 40°F or lower in the refrigerator, 0°F or lower in the freezer.
- Freeze water in small plastic storage bags or containers prior to a storm. These containers are small enough to fit around the food in the refrigerator and freezer to help keep food cold.
- Freeze refrigerated items, such as leftovers, milk and fresh meat and poultry that you may not need immediately—this helps keep them at a safe temperature longer.
- Consider getting 50 pounds of dry or block ice if a lengthy power outage is possible. This amount of ice should keep a fully-stocked 18-cubic-feet freezer cold for two days.
- Group foods together in the freezer—this ‘igloo’ effect helps the food stay cold longer.
- Keep a few days’ worth of ready-to-eat foods that do not require cooking or cooling.
USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is urging everyone in the potential path of the hurricane to prepare now – not just for yourselves, but also for your pets and your livestock.
Protecting livestock during a disaster:
- Plan For Evacuation – Know how you will evacuate and where you will go. If it is not feasible to evacuate your livestock, be sure to provide adequate food and water that will last them until you can return, and a strong shelter.
- If you are planning to move livestock out of state, make sure to contact the State Veterinarian’s Office in the receiving state before you move any animals. You also may contact APHIS Veterinary Services state offices for information and assistance about protecting and moving livestock.
- Listen to Emergency Officials – Evacuate if asked to do so.
When major disasters strike, USDA has an emergency loan program that provides eligible farmers low-interest loans to help them recover from production and physical losses. USDA’s emergency loan program is triggered when a natural disaster is designated by the Secretary of Agriculture or a natural disaster or emergency is declared by the President under the Stafford Act. USDA also offers additional programs tailored to the needs of specific agricultural sectors to help producers weather the financial impacts of major disasters and rebuild their operations.
Helping producers weather financial impacts of disasters:
Livestock owners and contract growers who experience above normal livestock deaths due to specific weather events, as well as to disease or animal attacks, may qualify for assistance under USDA’s Livestock Indemnity Program.
Livestock, honeybee and farm-raised fish producers who suffer animal, feed, grazing and associated transportation cost losses due to an extreme weather event may qualify for assistance through USDA’s emergency assistance program tailored for their agricultural sectors. Producers who suffer losses to or are preventing from planting agricultural commodities not covered by federal crop insurance may be eligible for assistance under USDA's Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Programs if the losses were due to natural disasters.
Helping operations recover after disasters:
USDA also can provide financial resources through its Environmental Quality Incentives Program to help with immediate needs and long-term support to help recover from natural disasters and conserve water resources.
Farmers and ranchers needing to rehabilitate farmland damaged by natural disasters can apply for assistance through USDA’s Emergency Conservation Program. USDA also has assistance available for eligible private forest landowners who need to restore forestland damaged by natural disasters through the Emergency Forest Restoration Program. USDA's Emergency Watershed Protection Program also can help relieve imminent threats to life and property caused by flood, fires and other natural disasters that impair a watershed.
Orchardists and nursery tree growers may be eligible for assistance through USDA’s Tree Assistance Program to help replant or rehabilitate eligible trees, bushes, and vines damaged by natural disasters.
Producers with coverage through the Risk Management Agency (RMA) administered Federal crop insurance program should contact their crop insurance agent for issues regarding filing claims. Those who purchased crop insurance will be paid for covered losses. Producers should report crop damage within 72 hours of damage discovery and follow up in writing within 15 days. The Approved Insurance Providers (AIP), loss adjusters and agents are experienced and well trained in handling these types of events. As part of its commitment to delivering excellent customer service, RMA is working closely with AIPs that sell and service crop insurance policies to ensure enough loss adjusters will be available to process claims in the affected areas as quickly as possible. Please visit the RMA website – www.rma.usda.gov for more details.
Visit USDA's disaster resources website 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 offices.usda.gov.
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