USDA Encourages Producers To Prepare Before Hurricane Season

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Source: USDA news release

May 5 to May 11, 2019, is National Hurricane Preparedness Week, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reminds rural communities, farmers and ranchers, families and small businesses of assistance we can provide should they be impacted by severe weather this hurricane season. The 2019 Atlantic hurricane season begins on June 1.

In the event of hurricanes, USDA can provide a wide range of help to those impacted.

In a continuing effort to serve the public, USDA partnered with FEMA and other disaster-focused organizations and created the Disaster Resource Center website, located at www.usda.gov/topics/disaster. This central source of information utilizes a searchable knowledgebase of disaster-related resources powered by agents with subject matter expertise. The Disaster Resource Center website provides an easy access point to find USDA disaster information and assistance.

Assistance USDA can provide following a hurricane includes:

Food Safety and Food Assistance

The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) provides information to the public before and after disasters to ensure that consumers take necessary steps before, during, and after a power outage to reduce food waste and minimize the risk of foodborne illness. FSIS offers tips for keeping frozen and refrigerated food safe and A Consumer’s Guide to Food Safety: Severe Storms and Hurricanes brochure (PDF, 2 MB) that can be downloaded and printed for reference at home.

Consumers with questions can contact the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-674-6854. Owners of meat and poultry producing businesses who have questions or concerns about how hurricanes could impact their operations may contact the FSIS Small Plant Help Desk by phone at 1-877-FSIS-HELP (1-877-374-7435), by email at infosource@fsis.usda.gov, or 24/7 online at: www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/regulatory-compliance/svsp/sphelpdesk.

When disasters strike, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) coordinates with state, local and voluntary organizations to provide food for shelters and other mass feeding sites. When the President declares a major disaster, authorities provided under the Stafford Act may also be utilized to assist impacted families and individuals.

States may request to operate a disaster household distribution program to distribute USDA Foods directly to households in need. As disaster response moves into the recovery phase, FNS may approve a state’s request to implement a Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) State agencies also may request a number of disaster-related waivers to help provide temporary assistance to impacted households already receiving SNAP benefits at the time of the disaster, or for flexibilities in administering school meals, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, and other programs.

Resources for disaster feeding partners as well as available FNS disaster nutrition assistance can be found on the FNS Disaster Assistance website.

Help with Crop and Livestock Losses
When hurricanes devastate agricultural lands, producers need to be able to identify which USDA programs can help them rebuild and recover.

USDA recently launched a disaster assistance discovery tool through its new website Farmers.gov that walks producers through five questions to help them identify personalized results of which USDA disaster assistance programs can help them recover after a natural disaster.

The USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) administers many 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 (PDF, 257 KB) and the Tree Assistance Program.

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 receive a primary or contiguous disaster designation are eligible for low-interest emergency loans to help them recover from production and physical losses.

Compensation also is 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. USDA encourages farmers and ranchers to contact their local FSA office to learn what documents can help the local office expedite assistance, such as farm records, receipts and pictures of damages or losses.

Producers also should consider getting covered through the federal crop insurance program administered by USDA’s Risk Management Agency before disaster strikes.

Community Recovery Resources
For declared natural disasters that lead to imminent threats to life and property, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (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. NRCS also can 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 might help mitigate loss in future events.

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.

USDA Rural Development (RD) offers technical assistance, loans, grants, and loan guarantees to rural communities and individuals to assist with the construction or rehabilitation of utility infrastructure including water and wastewater systems, community infrastructure, and housing.

Housing Programs
Homeowners who have an RD home loan and are impacted by hurricanes can call the Customer Service Center at 800-414-1226 to discuss payment assistance options. Homeowners with an RD guaranteed home loan should immediately contact their lender and file an insurance claim.

Community Programs
Rural communities of 10,000 or fewer residents who suffer a significant decline in the quantity or quality of their water may be eligible for Emergency Community Water Assistance Grants to establish new water sources or repair water transmission lines. Communities also may be eligible for Special Evaluation Assistance for Rural Communities and Households grants to begin developing feasibility studies for new water and waste disposal projects.

Business Programs
RD also partners with the U.S. Small Business Administration to assist rural businesses impacted by natural disasters. Please call 515-284-4663 or visit www.rd.usda.gov/programs-services/business-industry-loan-guarantees/ia for more information.

For complete details and eligibility requirements regarding USDA’s disaster assistance programs, contact a local USDA Service Center. More information about USDA disaster assistance, as well as other disaster resources, is available on the USDA Disaster Resource Center website, located at www.usda.gov/topics/disaster.

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