WASHINGTON, February 2, 2022 – With harsh winter conditions sweeping parts of the Midwest and South, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reminds communities, farmers and ranchers, families and small businesses that the USDA has programs that provide assistance in the aftermath of disasters.
USDA staff in regional, state, and county offices stand ready and eager to help.
The USDA partnered with FEMA and other disaster-focused organizations and created the Disaster Resource Center. This central source of information uses a searchable knowledge base of disaster-related resources populated by officers with subject matter expertise. The Disaster Resource Center website and web tool now provides an easy access point to find USDA disaster information and assistance. The USDA has also developed a disaster assistance discovery tool specifically focused on rural and agricultural issues. The tool guides producers through five questions that generate personalized results identifying USDA disaster assistance programs that can help them recover from a natural disaster.
The USDA also encourages residents and small businesses in impact areas to contact a local USDA office to determine which assistance programs might meet their individual needs.
Food Safety Tips:
Severe weather forecasts often present the possibility of power outages that could compromise the safety of stored food. The USDA encourages those in the path of storms to take the following precautions:
- During a power outage, the refrigerator will keep food at a safe temperature (below 40°F) for up to 4 hours. A full freezer will maintain a safe temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if half full). Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed to prevent cold air from escaping.
- Keep an appliance thermometer in the fridge and freezer in case you need to check fridge or freezer temperatures.
- Freeze water in small bags or plastic storage containers before a storm. These containers are small enough to fit around food in the fridge and freezer to help keep food cold.
- Freezing refrigerated foods, such as leftovers, milk, fresh meat and poultry that you may not need immediately, helps keep them at a safe temperature longer.
- Consider getting 50 pounds of dry or block ice if an extended power outage is possible. This amount of ice should keep a fully stocked 18 cubic foot freezer cool for two days.
- Group food together in the freezer: this “igloo” effect helps food stay cold longer.
- Store a few days worth of ready-to-eat foods that don’t require cooking or cooling.
Meat and poultry business owners who have questions or concerns can contact the FSIS Small Plant Help Desk by phone at 1-877-FSIS-HELP (1-877-374-7435 ), via email at [email protected] , or online 24/7 at www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/regulatory-compliance/svsp/sphelpdesk.
USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) also stands ready to work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), as well as states and local authorities, to provide emergency nutritional aid and other nutrition program flexibilities to help those in need.
Protect pets and livestock:
The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) urges everyone in the potential path of the storms to prepare now, not only for yourselves, but also for your pets. and your livestock:
- Plan the evacuation – know how you will evacuate and where you will go. If it is not possible to evacuate your livestock, be sure to provide solid shelter and sufficient food and water until you return.
- If you plan to move livestock out of state, be sure to contact the state veterinarian’s office in the receiving state before moving animals. You can also contact APHIS State Veterinary Services offices for information and assistance with livestock protection and movement.
- Listen to emergency officials and evacuate if instructed.
Risk management and claims assistance for agricultural operations:
The USDA offers several risk management and disaster assistance options to help producers recover from a disaster.
Producers who incur losses and whose crops are covered for the 2021 or 2022 crop year by the Federal Crop Insurance Program or the Uninsured Agricultural Disaster Assistance (NAP) Program are encouraged to report crop damage to their crop insurance agent or local FSA office, respectively, within 72 hours of discovering the damage and follow up in writing within 15 days.
In addition, there are several permanent disaster programs for producers. Key programs offered by the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) include:
It is also essential that growers maintain accurate records to document damage or loss and report losses to their local USDA service center as soon as possible.
In addition, the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) can provide financial resources through its Environmental Quality Incentive Program to meet immediate needs and long-term support to help recover from natural disasters and conserve water resources. The USDA can also help local government sponsors with the cost of recovery efforts such as debris removal and shoreline stabilization to address natural resource concerns and risks across the country. Emergency Watershed Protection Program.
More information on recovery assistance is available at farmers.gov. Visit the Winter Storm Recovery website and check out the Disaster Assistance Discovery Tool, Disaster Assistance Fact Sheet at a Glance (PDF, 4.6 MB) and Agricultural Loan Discovery Tool to determine other programs or loan options. For assistance with a crop insurance claim, producers and landowners should contact their crop insurance agent. For FSA and NRCS programs, they should contact their USDA Service Center.
The USDA touches the lives of all Americans every day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris administration, the USDA is transforming the US food system with greater emphasis on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe food, healthy and nutritious in all communities, creating new markets and income streams for farmers and producers using climate-smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in clean energy infrastructure and capacity in the Rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and creating a workforce that is more representative of America. To learn more, visit www.usda.gov.