Aid available to farmers after historic flooding
OPELOUSAS – The Louisiana Department of Agriculture is assuring farmers that state and federal aid is available to help them get through the flooding crisis.
According to a release from LSU’s Friday, state Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain has held multiple meetings in Indian Bayou, Opelousas, Batchelor and Donaldsonville.
LSU AgCenter economist Kurt Guidry estimates that $110 million was lost in the flooding. But, he said that number does not include figures for livestock deaths.
“We know that is going to change,” Guidry said. “That’s really our first stab at that.”
Guidry said final figures could be determined with two to three weeks. Strain believes that estimate will rise closer to the $200 million mark.
Strain said 28 to 30 parishes have been affected by last week’s historic flooding. The LSU AgCenter damage estimate could help local officials make a case for federal disaster funds that were made available after hurricanes Gustav and Ike in 2008.
Strain said the current farm bill does not provide relief for crawfish producers, but he is seeking special funding from Washington to help cover those losses.
“We won’t know until next year what are losses are,” Strain said.
U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has already promised state officials $63 million in emergency loans available to agriculture producers.
Strain said he will also ask federal officials to extend work visas for foreign labor.
Louisiana Director for the USDA Farm Service Agency, Craig McCain, said a wide variety of assistance can be provided but farmers must meet with FSA representatives in their parish offices as soon as possible.
Commercial beekeepers that lost hives can be compensated, McCain said. Also, cattle owners who had to move herds can be compensated for hay and feed needed to relocate the animals.
The Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program provides financial assistance to producers of noninsurable crops when low yields, loss of inventory or prevented planting occur due to natural disasters. This includes native grasses for grazing. Eligible producers must have purchased NAP coverage for 2016 crops.
The Livestock Indemnity Program offers payments to eligible producers for livestock death losses in excess of normal mortality due to adverse weather, McCain said.
The Tree Assistance Program provides assistance to eligible orchardists and nursery tree growers for qualifying tree, shrub and vine losses due to natural disasters.
An emergency assistance program is available for livestock, honeybee and farm-raised fish producers for losses from feed shortages, disease or adverse weather not adequately addressed by other disaster programs. It also covers physically damaged or destroyed livestock feed that was purchased or mechanically harvested.
Harvested forage must be baled to be eligible. Producers must submit a notice of loss to their local FSA office within 30 calendar days after the loss is apparent.
McCain said record-keeping is essential for receiving help. Disaster loans also are available for failed crops and acreage not harvested, he said.
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