As Hurricane Matthew bears down on the coast of Florida and the Southeastern US, our thoughts are to everyone bracing for the storm. We urge everyone to follow the directives of local officials and do not take chances. Please stay safe, and our hearts are with you. We also want everyone in the storm’s path to know that when the storm has passed, and it will, there are many of us ready to assist. Here in North Carolina, where our organization is based, we have seen our share of storms, and have received generous help from our neighbors across the country. When the time comes, know that you are not in this alone. If there is time, take a few minutes before the storm to get your records to a safe place. Back up files on computers, copy papers for safe-keeping, and get them someplace that will stay dry. If possible, you also may want to take pictures of your home and farm for use in documenting losses later. While our eyes are still on the sky (and the weather news) we also want to start sending out information that will be useful the day after. What you do in the days following the storm can mean a great deal of difference to your recovery. First, understand what different agencies do. For the needs of your household, look to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA.) Sometimes there is confusion, and people can mistakenly think that FEMA does not serve farmers. They DO serve farm households, just not specifically farm damage. Here is the FEMA website for Hurricane Matthew: https://www.fema.gov/hurricane-matthew For losses on your farm, look to the USDA. There is a wide range of disaster assistance programs available from USDA, and the best gateway is to call your local USDA office for guidance. Here is the USDA website on Hurricane Matthew: http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?navid=storms Once the storm has passed, and people and livestock are safe, one of the first priorities is documentation. Unless there is danger to people, animals or property, take up the camera first and the chain saw second. Take photos of damaged crops and property, with notes describing what is in the pictures and where they were taken. Many disaster assistance programs will come online after the disaster, even years after the disaster, and a family can only receive assistance with what they have documented. For instance, the Emergency Conservation Program can compensate farmers for work that they do returning the land to production, but only if the work is documented and if they have gotten authorization from their local USDA office in advance.
Attention Farmers: Download this 2-page factsheet from the USDA’s Farm Service Agency: Farm Service Agency Disaster Assistance Programs at a GlanceDisaster programs expect people to be at their most organized best when their lives are at their worst. The short advice is to write everything down. We encourage folks to get a notebook, and keep it with them during recovery, writing down what they did, what officials they talked to about disaster programs, and notes of the conversation. If at all possible, have two people involved in the conversation so that one can ask questions and the other can take notes. Do not expect yourself to remember. Recovery from major storms is a long process, with ups and downs along the way. There are many experienced folks out there who are ready with a helping hand or a listening ear, weeks and months after the disaster, and the news cameras, are gone. Over the next few days, stay safe and be cautious. Know that you are not in this alone, and that when the time comes, help is around the corner.
Resources for FarmersHere is a list of some of the most important resources that farmers should familiarize themselves with both for preparing for and dealing with disasters.
- RAFI’s disaster assistance resources page: http://rafiusa.org/programs/farmsustainability/disaster-programs/
- The USDA portal on disaster assistance: http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?navid=disaster-help
- The Farmers’ Legal Action Group (FLAG) disaster program: http://www.flaginc.org/topic/disaster-assistance-and-risk-management/
- ATTRA’s disaster resources page: https://attra.ncat.org/disaster.html