WASHINGTON, Sept. 10, 2020 - The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reminds rural communities, farmers and ranchers, families and small businesses affected by the devastation caused by Hurricane Laura that USDA has programs that provide assistance in the wake of disasters. USDA staff in the regional, state and county offices 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.”
Some of the many ways USDA and its component agencies are helping residents in Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas and Mississippi recover following Hurricane Laura include:
Ensure food safety when returning home after disasters
As residents make it back into their homes, USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is helping ensure they are taking the proper steps to reduce the risk of foodborne illness. Food safety tips after a power outage and flooding are available on the FSIS website.
Information about protecting livestock may be found on APHIS’s Protecting Livestock During a Disaster page. Additionally, information about protecting household pets and service animals can be found on the APHIS Animal Care Emergency Programs webpage.
The APHIS Animal Care (AC) program, which oversees the welfare of certain animals that are exhibited to the public, bred for commercial sale and used in medical research, is also actively involved in the hurricane response effort. In addition to providing technical assistance to local regulated facilities to help them prepare for potential hurricane damage and flooding, AC inspectors are now checking those facilities that were in the path of the storm to assess damage and ensure the welfare of their animals.
For more information about APHIS’ response efforts and how to protect pets and service animals in disasters, follow APHIS on Twitter at @USDA_APHIS.
Farm Production and Conservation agencies helping producers weather financial impacts
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 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.
Livestock owners and contract growers who experience above normal livestock deaths due to specific weather events, as well as to disease, injury or animal attacks, may qualify for assistance under USDA’s Livestock Indemnity Program. 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 an extreme weather event may qualify for assistance. Producers of non-insurable crops who suffer crop losses, lower yields or are prevented from planting agricultural commodities may be eligible for assistance under USDA's Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program if the losses were due to natural disasters.
Helping operations recover after disasters
Farmers and ranchers that suffered damage to working lands and livestock mortality due to a qualifying natural disaster are encouraged to contact their local USDA Service Center. USDA has multiple programs to help producers manage their operations.
USDA 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. Assistance may also be available for emergency animal mortality disposal from natural disasters and other causes.
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.
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.
Helping individuals recover after disasters
In the aftermath of a disaster, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) works with state, local, and nongovernmental organizations to provide emergency nutrition assistance – including food packages and infant formula – to households, shelters, and mass feeding sites serving people in need. Upon request from states, the agency also provides emergency flexibilities in the administration of its nutrition assistance programs and works with local authorities to provide Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) benefits, as it has in Louisiana just recently.
As Hurricane Laura wreaked havoc in Louisiana, Texas, and the Caribbean, FNS responded by allowing Louisiana to run D-SNAP, along with approving waivers to allow for hot food purchases with SNAP benefits, as well as letting the state re-issue mass replacements of SNAP benefits due to food loss. The state was also able to have a Disaster Household Distribution of USDA foods which helped distribute food boxes to countless individuals impacted by the devastating hurricane.
Similar programs have been put into place in Texas, and additional flexibilities have been allowed in these states and in Puerto Rico to ease the burden on administrative staff and participants as they recover.
Once the disaster recovery efforts begin, emergency nutrition assistance and flexibilities requested by states and approved by FNS will be posted to the FNS Disaster Assistance website.
USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture provides support for disaster education through the Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN). 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 the delivery of services to citizens affected by disasters. EDEN's goal is to improve the nation's ability to mitigate, prepare for, prevent, respond to and recover from disasters. EDEN equips county-based Extension educators to share research-based resources in local disaster management and recovery efforts. The EDEN website offers a searchable database of Extension professionals, resources, member universities and disaster agency websites, education materials to help people deal with a wide range of hazards, and food and agricultural defense educational resources.
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 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. Visit the RMA website for additional details.
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