Sec. Vilsack surveys flooded areas in western Iowa
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack met with rural producers and community leaders at Glenwood High School Thursday to hear their concerns and provide USDA assistance program information. Vilsack assured those gathered that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is ready and able to provide for those who need it the most as rising Missouri River floodwaters begin to inundate cropland and rural communities.
Image has not been found. URL: http://media.iowaindependent.com/tom_vilsack_150.jpg Tom Vilsack
“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,” Vilsack said. “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, and well as our federal partners, to make sure folks have food, shelter and necessary resources to recover from these challenges.”
On Friday, Vilsack plans to visit with producers and survey damage in Nebraska.
His Thursday Iowa stop followed a June 15 informational meeting hosted by John Berge, executive director of the National Food and Agriculture Council. Berge spoke with agricultural producers and businesses regarding his tour of the ag lands devastated by the Missour River flood.
“Our goal with the tour and the conversations that we have had with producers and community leaders is to get a firsthand look and provide that information back to Washington,” said Berge, noting that the accounts should help expedite aid to the area.
“It is amazing to see firsthand the damage and potential damage from these historic releases, but equally amazing has been the witnessing of neighbors helping neighbors and community involvement in preparation of this flood.”
Thus far the Missouri River has flooded thousands of acres in Nebraska and Iowa, and early estimates indicate that as much as 150,000 acres of cropland could be impacted before the waters recede — a process that could take several weeks. Vilsack surveyed some of the existing damage from a plane Thursday.
Pat Curtis of Radio Iowa is reporting that flood waters from the Missouri have reached and are slowly climbing the secondary levee protecting the town of Hamburg. It is the community’s last line of defense against 10 feet of flood waters, and the levee is currently holding.
… [Hamburg Fire Chief Dan] Sturm says the floodwaters crawled through thousands of acres of farmland to reach Hamburg. “It’s quite a sight to see this stuff move through,” Sturm said. “It’s not something you see everyday … it’s not something you want to see everyday, of course. But I guess it’s history. There’s just a vast amount of water down here and there’s a vast amount of water yet to come.” …
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, noted Vilsack. With respect to loans guaranteed by Rural Development, borrowers should initially contact their lender for assistance.
Rural Development also provides the Federal Emergency Management Agency 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 DisasterAssistance.gov.