Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told farmers, ranchers and producers today in Southwest Iowa that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is ready and able to provide assistance to those who need it most as rising Missouri River floodwaters begin to inundate cropland and rural communities. Vilsack met with producers and community leaders at Glenwood High School where he listened to their concerns and provided information on available USDA programs and resources. He will also visit with producers and survey damage in Nebraska tomorrow.
"America's farmers and rural communities are vitally important to our nation's economy and our values, and my heart goes out to all who are facing hardships because of severe weather and natural disasters," said Vilsack. "I want all residents, farmers, ranchers and businesses to know that USDA can offer assistance to help them through difficult times and we are working with state and local officials, as well as our federal partners, to make sure folks have food, shelter and necessary resources to recover from these challenges."
Rains and heavy, melting snowpack in the Northern United States is inundating the Missouri River and its tributaries, bringing floods and threats of flooding to residents in several states, from North Dakota to Kansas. Vilsack highlighted how the Obama Administration has responded with immediacy to tornadoes, flooding and wildfires in many parts of the country. For weeks, USDA agencies have been working in communities across the country to offer a variety of resources for states and individuals affected by the recent disasters.
For instance, USDA has provided over $110 million in disaster-related food assistance to help more than 660,000 individuals in 8 States and 184 counties. To date, USDA has also provided 10 states a total of $9.6 million to restore land damaged by flooding.
In rural communities, USDA's Rural Development will continue to work with existing individual and community borrowers that have been affected by a natural disaster to help them with their loans. With respect to loans guaranteed by Rural Development, borrowers should initially contact their lender for assistance.
Rural Development also provides FEMA with regular information as to vacant units in multi-family housing complexes financed by the agency, and following a Presidential disaster declaration, FEMA can assist with placement and vouchers to cover short-term rental costs. Housing and business assistance programs are available over the longer term to help finance repair and replacement of homes and businesses.
USDA's Farm Service Agency provides emergency loans through the Emergency Loan Program to help producers recover from production and physical losses due to natural disasters. Producers will be eligible for these loans as soon as their county is declared a Presidential or Secretarial disaster county. Emergency loan funds may be used to: restore or replace essential property; pay all or part of production costs associated with the disaster year; pay essential family living expenses; reorganize the farming operation; and refinance certain debts.
The heavy rainfall and flood conditions across the Midwest and South have caused crop damage and slowed planting. 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. If a levee collapses due to excess rainfall, subsequent crop losses due to flooding are covered by Federal crop insurance, as described in their policies. USDA is working with the states affected to determine what damages qualify for crop insurance indemnities and/or the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments (SURE) Program. In order to be eligible for SURE, a producer is required to have obtained crop insurance policies or Non-insured Assistance Program (NAP) coverage, unless they are a socially disadvantaged, limited resource or beginning farmer or rancher.
USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) administers the Emergency Watershed Protection program, which provides assistance to areas that have been damaged by natural disasters, such as floods, windstorms, drought, and wildfires. In partnership and through local government sponsors, NRCS helps local communities recover from natural disasters.
The USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) provides food assistance to those in need in areas affected by a disaster. This federal assistance is in addition to that provided by state and local governments. USDA provides disaster food assistance in three ways: provides foods to State agencies for distribution to shelters and other mass feeding sites; provides food to state agencies for distribution directly to households in need in certain limited situations; and authorizes state agencies to issue Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) benefits.
USDA staff in the affected states are working with citizens and state and local and other federal officials to explain the type of aid that is available. Individuals can apply for other types of federal disaster assistance at www.disasterassistance.gov. For additional information and updates about USDA's relief efforts, please visit www.usda.gov.