Local, state, federal programs offer wildfire relief

Issue Date: October 25, 2017
By Kevin Hecteman

With the spate of Northern California wildfires nearly contained, many people are beginning to focus on making a comeback.

A number of state and federal programs exist to help farmers and ranchers, and other efforts are being organized at the local level.

The Sonoma County Farm Bureau is partnering with the Sonoma County Grape Growers Foundation to set up a housing support fund for agricultural workers who lost their homes to wildfires. Already, more than $50,000 in seed money has been committed to the effort by local grape growers and others. Donations can be made at www.scggf.org.

"Our agricultural workers are a valuable part of our community, and we are here to ensure they receive the support they need through this difficult time," Sonoma County Farm Bureau President Steve Dutton said.

The Sonoma County Farm Bureau also is coordinating the donation of feed and supplies for livestock and horses. Monetary donations also are being accepted. People interested in making donations or requesting assistance may email emily@sonomafb.org or call 707-544-5575.

In addition, the University of California Cooperative Extension office in Sonoma County is working to connect landowners who have available pasture with livestock owners whose animals need a place to graze. Those interested may call Stephanie Larson at 707-565-2621 or email slarson@ucanr.edu.

"We've gotten a huge response from the community," said Larson, a UCCE livestock and rangeland advisor based in Santa Rosa.

The Napa County Farm Bureau held a meeting last Friday with Karen Ross, secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture; Greg Clark, Napa County agricultural commissioner; and representatives of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Jesse Ramer, executive director of the Napa County Farm Bureau, said a damage-assessment survey will be going out soon.

"We want to encourage all participation possible because there's no reason to underreport the reality of the effect," Ramer said. "The more hard numbers we get, the more potential assistance and a longer timeline for that assistance is available."

Ramer said his office can point Farm Bureau members to the agencies most likely to be able to help them.

"We understand the various federal programs out there, and we'll be happy to put people in touch with the points of contact for all those programs," he said.

A housing program, Rebuild Wine Country, has been launched with the aim of helping those who lost homes to the fires. It's a partnership of local businesses and the Habitat for Humanity chapters in Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino and Lake counties: www.rebuildwinecountry.org/.

The California Farm Bureau Federation has compiled links to resources and relief efforts at www.cfbf.com/wildfireaid. CDFA also maintains a list of programs at www.cdfa.ca.gov/firerecovery/.

USDA offers a number of programs designed to help farmers and ranchers who lost crops, livestock or property, operated through the Farm Service Agency and the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Among them are the Livestock Indemnity Program, which reimburses producers up to 75 percent of the market value of animals lost to adverse weather, including wildfires. The Emergency Livestock Assistance Program compensates producers for a percentage of pasture or forage lost to natural disasters on private property. Applications for this program are due Oct. 30.

The Emergency Conservation Program, run through local FSA offices, helps ranchers rebuild fences and other rangeland infrastructure damaged or destroyed in a wildfire. The Livestock Forage Disaster Program helps those who lost pasture or forage due to drought, or who have federally managed grazing leases that can't be used at present because of wildfire.

Farmers who lost trees, bushes and vines can apply for the Tree Assistance Program, which helps them replant or rehabilitate affected crops.

(Kevin Hecteman is an assistant editor of Ag Alert. He may be contacted at khecteman@cfbf.com.)

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.