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After hurricane Sandy, US agriculture stands up

USDA is focused on working with our federal partners to support an effective, efficient and well-coordinated response to disaster. Farmers and ranchers urged to record losses

This year, many Americans have been impacted by a wide range of natural disasters. Many have seen their homes perish or their livelihoods turned upside down, sometimes overnight. Tragically, some have lost their lives.
Many Americans don’t know it, but USDA often plays a key role in disaster assistance and recovery.
More than 250 U.S. Forest Service personnel have been sent to affected states, to assist in disaster response. USDA staff members are helping rural electric and water utility companies assess outages and damage. We are working with impacted States to assess the need for emergency food assistance.

"USDA, working with FEMA and other partners, is dedicated to helping homeowners impacted by Hurricane Sandy," Vilsack said. "We are taking steps to ensure that direct and guaranteed USDA home loan borrowers have the assistance and resources they need to get through this disaster."

The following actions aim to help rural communities and residents in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic:
- USDA home loan borrowers in Presidential Declared Disaster, and surrounding counties, will receive a letter that outlines loan servicing assistance to help impacted borrowers with loan repayment. This includes a potential moratorium on payment schedules for up to six months for eligible borrowers.
- Available USDA properties that are not currently under lease or purchase agreement may be made available for lease to victims of Hurricane Sandy through FEMA.
- USDA is providing FEMA with information about vacant units in multi-family housing complexes financed by the agency. These units may be made available to impacted individuals and families. Individuals are encouraged to contact FEMA for information about these properties, or access the FEMA housing portal at http://asd.fema.gov/inter/hportal/home.htm.
- Victims of the disaster may obtain a Letter of Priority Entitlement at any USDA Rural Development area or state office. This enables the letter holder to move to the top of any waiting list at an USDA-financed multifamily property. These properties are privately-owned and applicants must pass current screening criteria.

Farm Service Agency recommends that owners and producers record all pertinent information of natural disaster consequences, including:
- Documentation of the number and kind of livestock that have died, supplemented if possible by photographs or video records of ownership and losses;
- Dates of death supported by birth recordings or purchase receipts;
- Costs of transporting livestock to safer grounds or to move animals to new pastures;
- Feed purchases if supplies or grazing pastures are destroyed;
- Crop records, including seed and fertilizer purchases, planting and production records;
- Pictures of on-farm storage facilities that were destroyed by wind or flood waters; and
- Evidence of damaged farm land.

Producers with damaged farmland should contact their local FSA office. The Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) may be able to assist producer who need to repair farmland or remove debris due to Hurricane Sandy. FSA currently has $15.5 million available for producers in counties that received a Major Disaster declaration pursuant to the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act. Producers located in counties that have not received a Major Disaster declaration should visit their local FSA office for information on ECP if funding becomes available in the future.

Producers with private forest land that was damaged should also visit their local FSA office for information on the Emergency Forest Restoration Program (EFRP). EFRP provides assistance to landowners of private forest land to help carry out emergency measures to restore land damaged by a natural disaster. Currently no funding is available, however, producers should visit their local FSA office for information if funding becomes available.

USDA's Risk Management Agency reminds producers faced with questions on prevented planting, replant, or crop losses to contact their crop insurance agent for more information. Producers who need emergency credit due may receive assistance through the Emergency Loan Program if they need assistance recovering from production and physical losses due to natural disasters. Producers are eligible for these loans as soon as their county is declared a Presidential or Secretarial disaster county.

Agriculture Secretary Vilsack also reminds producers that the department's authority to operate the five disaster assistance programs authorized by the 2008 Farm Bill expired on Sept. 30, 2011. This includes SURE; the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP); the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees, and Farm-Raised Fish (ELAP); the Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP); and the Tree Assistance Program (TAP). Production losses due to disasters occurring after Sept. 30, 2011, are not eligible for disaster program coverage.

To deliver assistance to those who need it most, Secretary Vilsack effectively reduced the interest rate for Emergency Loans in July 2012, while streamlining the Secretarial disaster designations process, resulting in a 40-percent reduction in processing time for most counties affected by disasters. Among other administrative actions, USDA has also worked with crop insurance companies to provide more flexibility to farmers.

USDA will continue working with state and local officials, as well as our federal partners, to make sure people have the necessary resources to recover from this challenge.

Crops insured by federal crop insurance or by the Noninsured Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) are covered when floodwaters have rendered them valueless. USDA encourages all farmers and ranchers to contact their crop insurance companies and local USDA Farm Service Agency Service Centers, as applicable, to report damages to crops or livestock loss. More information about federal crop insurance may be found at www.rma.usda.gov. Additional resources to help farmers and ranchers deal with flooding and other damage may be found at www.usda.gov/disaster.

To find the USDA Service Center nearest you, please visit http://offices.sc.egov.usda.gov/locator/app?state=us&agency=fsa.

by T N
05 november 2012, World News > America

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