(FDACS) — With Tropical Storm Eta’s flooding and high winds impacting Florida agricultural operations, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) is encouraging farmers and livestock producers to seek technical and financial assistance available from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
As agricultural producers assess damages, they should contact their local USDA Service Center to report losses and learn more about program options available to assist in their recovery from crop, land, infrastructure, and livestock losses and damages. USDA encourages farmers and ranchers to contact the Farm Service Agency (FSA) county office to learn which documents should be provided to help the local office expedite assistance, such as farm records, receipts, and pictures of damages or losses.
“This has already been a historically challenging year for Florida’s agriculture producers, made even more difficult by Tropical Storm Eta’s winds and rain,” said Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. “I encourage any producers impacted by this storm to seek disaster assistance through the USDA and its Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Risk Management Agency, our federal partners who are here to help you recover.”
FSA Assistance: Depending on the operation, FSA offers a number of disaster assistance programs to help offset eligible losses, including the Livestock Indemnity Program, Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program, Emergency Conservation Program, Emergency Forest Restoration Program, Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP), and Tree Assistance Program. Additionally, producers located in counties with a primary or contiguous disaster designation may be eligible for low-interest emergency loans to help them recover from production and physical losses. “FSA has a variety of disaster assistance programs to support farmers and ranchers through times of adversity,” said Sherry McCorkle, state executive director for USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) in Florida. “Once you are able to evaluate impacts on your operation, it is important to contact your local FSA office to timely report all damages and losses and determine how we can assist.”
NRCS Assistance: USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) also offers programs to help in the recovery process. The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) can help producers plan and implement conservation practices on land impacted by natural disasters. “NRCS can be a very valuable partner to help landowners with their recovery efforts,” said Juan Hernandez, state conservationist for the NRCS in Florida. “Our staff will work one-on-one with landowners to make assessments of the damages and develop approaches that focus on effective recovery of the land.”
RMA Assistance: Producers with Federal crop insurance coverage should contact their crop insurance agent for assistance. Producers should report crop damage to their agent within 72 hours of damage discovery and follow up in writing within 15 days. “Crop insurance is there to help producers manage risk because we never know what nature has in store for the future,” said Davina Lee, director of the Risk Management Agcncy (RMA) Valdosta Regional Office that covers Florida. “The Approved Insurance Providers, loss adjusters and agents are experienced and well trained in handling these types of events.”
FDA Assistance: FDACS also encourages producers to consider the following U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) resources for food producers and resources for animal food producers impacted by Tropical Storm Eta.
Assistance for Communities:
Additional NRCS programs include the Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) program, which provides assistance to local government sponsors with the cost of addressing watershed impairments or hazards such as debris removal and streambank stabilization. Eligible sponsors include cities, counties, towns, conservation districts, or any federally recognized Native American tribe or tribal organization. When a watershed impairment occurs due to a natural disaster event, the district conservationist serves as the local facilitator for EWP activities.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is the lead federal agency for Presidentially declared natural disasters. All NRCS emergency work is coordinated with FEMA or its designee. Sponsors must submit a formal request (via mail or email) to the state conservationist for assistance within 60 days of the natural disaster occurrence or 60 days from the date when access to the sites become available. For more information, please contact Jason Strenth, EWP program manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 338-9559.
In addition to EWP, Conservation Technical Assistance is another valuable service that NRCS can provide following a tropical storm.
Producers and landowners can use the online Disaster Assistance Discovery Tool, answering five questions to identify USDA programs that will help meet disaster recovery needs.
For more information on all USDA disaster assistance programs, visit farmers.gov/recover, or contact your local USDA Service Center, which can be found at farmers.gov/service-center-locator. For assistance with a crop insurance claim, please contact your crop insurance agent. Media with questions on USDA assistance programs should contact FPAC.BC.Press@usda.gov.