USDA Programs Available To Help Ag Producers, Communities In Georgia Recover Following Irma
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) offers technical and financial assistance to agricultural producers and rural communities in Georgia impacted by Hurricane Irma to aid with recovery efforts.
USDA service center staff are available to assist those impacted by the storms through a variety of programs offered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the Farm Service Agency (FSA) and the Risk Management Agency (RMA).
“Through the Farm Bill and other USDA-led programs, we’re able to offer a variety of tools to those impacted by these catastrophic hurricanes,” said Terrance O. Rudolph, NRCS state conservationist for Georgia. “We are here to help rebuild and do so in a seamless way that puts the needs of our customers first.”
Assistance for Agricultural Producers
One of USDA’s key conservation programs, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), assists agricultural producers plan and make conservation improvements on land damaged by natural disasters, including flooding and severe rain events.
For example, soil erosion often occurs following these storms, and USDA’s NRCS helps producers implement conservation practices to fix places with excessive erosion and to prevent future erosion. A fiscal year 2018 signup cutoff for Georgia will be announced soon, but those affected by Hurricane Irma are encouraged to come in as soon as possible to discuss their application.
USDA’s 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 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.
“FSA has a variety of disaster assistance programs, such as the Emergency Conservation Program for example, to support Georgia farmers and ranchers through tough times like these,” said Dianne Westmoreland, acting state executive director for Georgia FSA. “We recognize Hurricane Irma’s damages were widespread, but once you are able to evaluate your losses, it is important to contact your local FSA office to report all damages and losses and learn more about how FSA can be of assistance.”
Additionally, 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 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’s RMA Regional Office Director Davina Lee said, producers with coverage through the RMA administered federal crop insurance program, “Should contact their crop insurance agent for issues regarding filing claims. They should report crop damage within 72 hours of damage discovery and follow up in writing within 15 days,” Lee said. “The Approved Insurance Providers, loss adjusters and agents are experienced and well-trained in handling these types of events.”
Producers interested in any of these programs should contact their local USDA service center.
Assistance for Communities
USDA also assists communities with rebuilding efforts following imminent hazards to life and property caused by natural disasters. Through the Emergency Watershed Protection Program, NRCS works with local government entities and Tribes in impacted counties to remove debris, stabilize streambanks, fix water control structures, among other practices. Local governments who are thinking about requesting assistance should review the Georgia’s Sponsor EWP Guide (PDF 5,388 KB) and submit their requests within 60 days of the storm event.
NRCS staff will coordinate with local and state partners to complete damage assessments in preparation for sponsor assistance requests.
For more online information you can download the USDA disaster assistance factsheet (PDF, 118 KB) or visit the USDA Disaster Resource Center website.