USDA offers programs, services for wildfire recovery

Issue Date: September 9, 2020

With California farmers and ranchers assessing damage from a spate of early-season wildfires, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has issued reminders about the technical and financial assistance it makes available to help with recovery.

"As agricultural producers move into recovery mode and 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 said.

Connie Conway, state director of the USDA Farm Service Agency, encouraged farmers and ranchers to contact a local FSA office via a Service Center as soon as they are safely able to evaluate the impact to their businesses. She said the FSA can advise farmers and ranchers on which documents they will need to provide to expedite assistance, such as farm records, receipts and pictures of damage or losses.

The FSA said it offers a number of disaster-assistance programs to offset eligible losses: 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; and Tree Assistance Program.

Additionally, USDA said producers located in counties with a primary or contiguous disaster designation may be eligible for low-interest emergency loans to help recover from production and physical losses.

The agency advised farmers and ranchers with federal crop insurance coverage to contact their crop insurance agent for assistance. The USDA Risk Management Agency said farmers and ranchers should report crop damage to their agent within 72 hours of the damage, and follow up in writing within 15 days.

Jeffrey Yasui, who directs the RMA regional office that covers California, said approved insurance providers, loss adjusters and agents "are experienced and well trained when it comes to disaster recovery and are ready to assist impacted producers."

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service said it also offers programs to help in the recovery process. The Environmental Quality Incentives Program Catastrophic Fire Recovery practice provides resource protection for areas burned by catastrophic fires, with benefits that include preventing soil erosion protection, minimizing spread of noxious and invasive plants, protecting water quality and restoring livestock infrastructure necessary for grazing management.

Additional NRCS programs include the Emergency Watershed Protection program, which assists local government agencies with the cost of addressing watershed impairments or hazards such as debris removal and streambank stabilization.

NRCS said it also offers Conservation Technical Assistance following a wildfire, to help fire victims with planning cost-effective post-fire restoration practices.

USDA said farmers, ranchers and landowners can use an online Disaster Assistance Discovery Tool, answering five questions to identify USDA programs that would help meet disaster recovery needs. The tool is available at www.farmers.gov/recover/disaster-tool.

More information on all USDA disaster assistance programs may be found at farmers.gov/recover or by contacting a local USDA Service Center, with a directory at farmers.gov/service-center-locator.

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




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