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Disaster assistance offered for producers

Minnesota Minute: USDA has technical and financial assistance available; So far, 22 counties have received a disaster declaration.

July 10, 2024

7 Min Read
Flooded field
HELP AVAILABLE: Farmers who suffered crop and livestock loss due to excessive rains and flooding have assistance options available.Kevin Schulz

USDA has technical and financial assistance available to help farmers and livestock producers who have been significantly impacted by recent rain and flooding.

Impacted producers 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 disaster assistance

Producers who experience livestock deaths in excess of normal mortality or sell injured livestock at a reduced price may be eligible for the Livestock Indemnity Program. To participate in LIP, producers will have to provide acceptable documentation of death losses or evidence of reduced sales resulting from an eligible adverse weather event and must submit a notice of loss to the USDA Farm Service Agency no later than the annual program payment application date, which is 60 calendar days following the calendar year in which the loss occurred. The LIP payment application and notice of loss deadline is March 3 for 2024 calendar-year losses. Livestock producers who experience losses related to tornadoes should check with their local FSA office for LIP eligibility criteria.

Meanwhile, the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program provides eligible producers with compensation for feed and grazing losses. For ELAP, producers are required to complete a notice of loss and a payment application to their local FSA office no later than the annual program application deadline, Jan. 30, for 2024 calendar-year losses.

Additionally, eligible orchardists and nursery tree growers may be eligible for cost-share assistance through the Tree Assistance Program to replant or rehabilitate eligible trees, bushes or vines. TAP complements the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program or crop insurance coverage, which covers the crop but not the plants or trees in all cases. For TAP, a program application must be filed within 90 days of the disaster event or the date when the loss of the trees, bushes or vines is apparent.

“Once you are able to evaluate the impact on your operation, be sure to contact your local FSA county office to report all crop, livestock and farm infrastructure damages and losses [in a timely manner],” says Whitney Place, Minnesota FSA state executive director. “To expedite FSA disaster assistance, you will likely need to provide documents, such as farm records, herd inventory, receipts and pictures of damages or losses.”

FSA also offers a variety of direct and guaranteed farm loans, including operating and emergency farm loans, to producers unable to secure commercial financing. Producers 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. Loans can help producers replace essential property, purchase inputs like livestock, equipment, feed and seed, cover family living expenses or refinance farm-related debts and other needs.

Additionally, FSA offers several loan servicing options available for borrowers who are unable to make scheduled payments on their farm loan programs debt to the agency because of reasons beyond their control.

The Farm Storage Facility Loan Program provides low-interest financing so producers can build, repair, replace or upgrade facilities to store commodities. Loan terms vary from three to 12 years. Producers who incurred damage to or loss of their equipment or infrastructure funded by the FSFL program should contact their insurance agent and their local USDA Service Center. Producers in need of on-farm storage should also contact USDA.

Risk management

Producers who have risk protection through Federal Crop Insurance or FSA’s NAP should report crop damage to their crop insurance agent or FSA office. If they have crop insurance, producers should provide a notice of loss to their agent within 72 hours of initial discovery of damage and follow up in writing within 15 days.

For NAP-covered crops, a Notice of Loss (CCC-576) must be filed within 15 days of the loss becoming apparent, except for hand-harvested crops, which should be reported within 72 hours.

“Crop insurance and other USDA risk management options are offered to help producers manage risk because we never know what nature has in store for the future,” says Amber Rhode, acting director of USDA’s Risk Management Agency Regional Office that covers Minnesota. “The Approved Insurance Providers, loss adjusters and agents are experienced and well-trained in handling these types of events.”

Land conservation

FSA’s Emergency Conservation Program and Emergency Forest Restoration Program  can assist landowners and forest stewards with financial and technical assistance to restore fencing, damaged farmland or forests; and remove debris from feedstocks, water supplies and feeding areas.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is always available to provide technical assistance during the recovery process by assisting producers to plan and implement conservation practices on farms and working forests impacted by natural disasters. The Environmental Quality Incentives Program can help producers plan and implement conservation practices on land impacted by natural disasters.

“The Natural Resources Conservation Service can be a very valuable partner to help landowners with their recovery and resiliency efforts,” says Troy Daniell, NRCS Minnesota state conservationist. “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.”

Assistance for communities

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

The objective of the EWP Program is to provide assistance in implementing emergency recovery measures for runoff retardation and erosion prevention to relieve imminent hazards to life and property created by a natural disaster that causes a sudden impairment of a watershed. All projects must have an eligible project sponsor. NRCS may bear up to 75% of the eligible construction cost of emergency measures (90% within countywide limited-resource areas as identified by U.S. Census data). The remaining costs must come from local sources and can be in the form of cash or in-kind services.

EWP Program is designed for installation of recovery measures to safeguard life and property as a result of a natural disaster. Threats that the EWP Program addresses are termed watershed impairments. These include, but are not limited to, debris-clogged waterways, unstable streambanks, severe erosion jeopardizing public infrastructure and wind-borne debris removal.

Eligible sponsors include cities, counties, towns or any federally recognized Native American tribe or tribal organization. Sponsors must submit a formal request (by mail or email) to the NRCS state conservationist for assistance within 60 days of the natural disaster occurrence or 60 days from the date when access to the sites becomes available. For more information, contact your local NRCS office.

22 counties approved for federal disaster declaration

On June 29 Gov. Tim Walz announced that 22 counties have been approved for a federal disaster declaration by the Federal Emergency Management Agency for severe flooding over the previous two weeks. The declaration will provide resources to reimburse communities for debris removal, emergency protective measures and repair and replacement of damaged infrastructure.

This announcement comes after Walz sent a letter to President Joe Biden requesting a presidential disaster declaration.

While more counties may be added, the initial 22 counties approved for public assistance are Blue Earth, Carver, Cass, Cook, Cottonwood, Faribault, Fillmore, Freeborn, Goodhue, Jackson, Lake, Le Sueur, Murray, Nobles, Pipestone, Rice, Rock, St. Louis, Steele, Wabasha, Waseca and Watonwan.

Walz and Tom Sivak, FEMA regional administrator, on June 28 provided an update on the state’s flood outlook and ongoing emergency response.

“I’ve seen the damage across our state firsthand — it’s going to take a united effort at every level of government to quickly rebuild and recover. This assistance is going to make all the difference in that recovery,” Walz says. “I’m grateful to our partners in the federal government for doing their part, just as Minnesotans have done theirs, filling tens of thousands of sandbags, checking in on their neighbors and volunteering their time.”

Damage assessments are ongoing, and additional counties and forms of assistance may be added once the assessments are completed.

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