Help After Hurricane Matthew: Disaster Relief for Farmers & Livestock Producers


On Monday, October 10th, officials issued a Major Disaster Declaration for several counties in eastern North Carolina as a result of devastating flooding and damage from Hurricane Matthew. Farmers are facing serious crises – from flooded barns to lost crops. If your home and farm were affected by the hurricane, there are resources and federal programs to cover some of your costs. This guide will get you started. Sometimes it can be hard to navigate the different programs available. If you have questions call our offices and press “1” for the farmer hotline: 919-542-1396.

The following counties are designated areas for disaster relief according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). That means if your home or farm is located in these areas, you are eligible to apply for coverage to a number of different programs for damage caused by Hurricane Matthew and flooding.

Beaufort County, Bertie County, Bladen County, Columbus County, Cumberland County, Edgecombe County, Hoke County, Johnston County, Lenoir County, Nash County, Pitt County, Robeson County, Wayne County and Wilson County.

How does disaster relief work? Different government agencies handle different types of damage, and they do not overlap. For example, the Farm Service Agency handles all assistance specifically for farms and farmland. The Small Business Administration handles disaster assistance for businesses and provides some housing loans. The Federal Emergency Management Administration handles household damages and reconstruction.

A farmer with a sawmill who sells lumber in the winter, and has a home on the land would need to go to three different agencies.  If a hurricane destroys all of the buildings, they would go to FEMA for household possessions and the home, SBA for assistance with damage to the home and the sawmill, and the FSA for assistance with the farm.

Getting started with disaster relief after Matthew

Step 1: Camera first, chainsaw second.

  • Disaster programs will only assist with documented damage. Make sure you take pictures and write down details, such as the total number of animals lost, the date damage occurred, how many days animals were removed from grazing, etc – before you clean up.
  • Keep any form of documentation of damage including receipts for transportation of animals or materials, purchases necessary, emergency housing, etc.

Step 2: Mark your calendar for 3 common and important deadlines

Each program has a different system for application and deadlines associated with it. Make sure that you read the fine print and get your applications in on time. But there are 2 very common deadlines that apply to many farmers:

  • Most Farm Service Agency (FSA) administered programs have a deadline for application of 30 days after the damage or loss occurs.
  • If you have been prevented from planting by the hurricane, you should fill out a Notice of Loss form from you local FSA office within 15 days of the planned planting date in order to determine if you are eligible for coverage.
  • If you participate in RMA federal crop insurance, you must report the damage within 72 hours of discovery of damage, and follow-up in writing within 15 days.  

Step 3: Know what programs for coverage are available.

There are several different programs at different agencies available to help farmers recover from Matthew’s damage. This is a brief summary, and may not include everything:

Farm Service Agency (FSA) Programs Available Now

Important note: Most FSA programs have a deadline for application 30 days after the damage or loss occurred. Make sure to mark your calendar and apply for coverage in time.

  • Non-Insured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) – provides financial assistance to producers of non-insurable crops when low yields, loss of inventory, or prevented planting occur due to natural disasters (includes native grass for grazing). Eligible producers must have purchased NAP coverage for 2016 crops.
  • Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) – offers payments to eligible producers for livestock death losses in excess of normal mortality due to adverse weather. Eligible losses may include those determined by FSA to have been caused by hurricanes, floods, blizzards, wildfires, tropical storms, tornadoes, lightening, extreme heat, and extreme cold. Producers will be required to provide verifiable documentation of death losses resulting from an eligible adverse weather event and must submit a notice of loss to their local FSA office within 30 calendar days of when the loss of livestock is apparent.
  • Tree Assistance Program (TAP) – provides assistance to eligible orchardists and nursery tree growers for qualifying tree, shrub and vine losses due to natural disaster.
  • Emergency Forest Restoration Program (EFRP) – The objective of EFRP is to restore non-industrial private forest land (NIPF) damaged by natural disasters.  Cost-share assistance is provided to owners of NIPF that has been damaged by a natural disaster such as Hurricane Matthew.
  • Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP) – provides emergency relief for losses due to feed or water shortages, disease, adverse weather, or other conditions, which are not adequately addressed by other disaster programs. ELAP covers physically damaged or destroyed livestock feed that was purchased or mechanically harvested forage or feedstuffs intended for use as feed for the producer’s eligible livestock. In order to be considered eligible, harvested forage must be baled; forage that is only cut, raked or windrowed is not eligible. Producers must submit a notice of loss to their local FSA office within 30 calendar days of when the loss is apparent.
    ELAP also covers up to 150 lost grazing days in instances when a producer has been forced to remove livestock from a grazing pasture due to floodwaters.
    For beekeepers, ELAP covers beehive losses (the physical structure) in instances where the hive has been destroyed by a natural disaster including flooding, high winds and tornadoes.

  • Emergency Loan Program – Available to producers with agriculture operations located in a county under a primary or contiguous Secretarial Disaster designation. These low interest loans help producers recover from production and physical losses due to drought, flooding.
  • Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) – provides emergency funding for farmers and livestock producers to rehabilitate land severely damaged by natural disasters; includes fence loss. Unlike the other programs in this list, ECP has an annual enrollment period. You will need to contact your local FSA office to find out the next enrollment period and sign up with them. Then the FSA County Committee inspects the damage to determine if your land is eligible for ECP.
  • HayNet – is an Internet-based Hay and Grazing Net Ad Service allowing farmers and livestock producers to share ‘Need Hay’ ads and ‘Have Hay’ ads online. Farmers also can use another feature to post advertisements for grazing land, specifically ads announcing the availability of grazing land or ads requesting a need for land to graze.
  • Disaster Set Aside (For farmers with existing direct FSA loans): When Farm Service Agency (FSA) borrowers located in designated disaster areas or adjoining counties are unable to make their scheduled payment on any FSA debt, FSA is authorized to consider setaside of one payment to allow the operation to continue.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

  • Homeowners, renters and business owners in Beaufort, Bladen, Columbus, Cumberland, Edgecombe, Hoke, Lenoir, Nash, Pitt and Robeson counties are urged to register with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as they may be eligible for disaster assistance.
  • Assistance may include grants for temporary housing, rental assistance and home repairs, and for other serious disaster-related needs, such as repairing or replacing damaged or destroyed personal property, and medical and dental expenses.

  • North Carolina residents should register with FEMA even if they have insurance

    3 Ways to Register
    By Phone: 1-800-621-3362 or TTY 800-462-7585
    In Person: Visit a Disaster Recovery Center (DRC). Download the FEMA App to find the nearest location.

Small Business Administration (SBA) – Disaster Loans

Disaster Unemployment Assistance (Employment Security Commission of NC) 

  • On October 13, the NC Division of Employment Security announced the approval of 20 NC counties for Disaster Unemployment Assistance.  The following counties were approved, although more counties may be added at a later date: Beaufort, Bertie, Bladen, Columbus, Cumberland, Dare, Edgecombe, Greene, Harnett, Hoke, Hyde, Johnston, Jones, Lenoir, Nash, Pitt, Robeson, Sampson, Wayne and Wilson.

    This program is available for individuals who are prevented from working due to the hurricane, including farmers who are prevented from performing their normal tasks due to storm damage. This includes not being able to farm because they are cleaning up damage.

    Because these benefits are time limited by the calendar rather than by the duration of benefits, we suggest that individuals sign up quickly.

    Individuals who are affected by the disaster and are unable to continue working must file an application for benefits within 30 days of the announcement: by November 14, 2016.

  • Click here for more information.

Legal Help – North Carolina Bar Association

  • A special toll-free telephone number has been established at North Carolina Bar Association to receive requests for legal help. Storm victims needing help with legal problems may call the NCBA weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 1-800-662-7407. All calls are screened, and then referred to volunteer attorneys who agree to offer a telephone consultation, providing free legal advice for disaster-related problems.