Before worrying about the farm, make sure that you and your family are safe and taken care of. If you are in any immediate danger, call 911. Once your family is safe and taken care of, recovery can begin. RAFI focuses on long-term recovery. For more immediate help, visit the links below.
The USDA has initiated fast-track disaster designations for counties suffering in the 2012 drought based on the US Drought Monitor. Counties that have been designated by the Drought Monitor as suffering from Severe Drought for 8 consecutive weeks will be designated as a disaster automatically, rather than having to apply for disaster designation. Click here to see the current USDA disaster designations.
The US Drought Monitor provides a map of current drought conditions across the country, updated every Tuesday.
The USDA has a website that contains information on all of USDA’s disaster assistance programs and updates.
Disaster Assistance web site for all damage, not just agriculture: http://www.disasterassistance.gov
Documenting Damage after a Disaster
After a disaster, remember this rule: camera first, chainsaw second.
Disaster programs will only assist with documented damage. Many federal disaster programs require you to have participated in crop insurance or NAP in order to be eligible.
Disaster assistance programs often take place years after the disaster, so you should document losses even if programs are not immediately available.
Federal programs sometimes pay for unexpected expenses. For instance, the Emergency Conservation Program can cover your use of chain saws and front-end loaders in recovery efforts, but only if it is pre-authorized and well-documented.
The first step is to check in with your local FSA office to talk through possible programs.
Government Assistance for Farmers after a Disaster
The federal government will only provide assistance after federally declared or designated disasters. Check the FEMA Web site or search by state to find out if your area qualifies. If so, the next step is determining what kind of assistance you are eligible to receive.
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.
For example, 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.
- Farm Service Agency: Disaster Assistance Programs: assistance for farms and farmland
- IRS Disaster Assistance Page: tax law provisions for disaster recovery
- Small Business Administration Disaster Assistance Page: low-interest disaster loans to homeowners, renters, businesses and nonprofits
- Risk Management Agency: information on crop insurance. Most federal farm disaster assistance programs require prior participation in RMA crop insurance programs or non-insured crop disaster assistance programs.
- Federal Emergency Management Agency: Applying for Assistance: assistance with housing, unemployment and counseling
- North Carolina Cooperative Extension: Disaster Infromation Center: fact sheets on dealing with daily needs and stress and on financial recovery for your family and farm (or en Español)
Assistance with Disaster Programs
Navigating federal disaster assistance can be complicated. There is help.
- The Farmer’s Legal Action Group publishes The Farmer’s Guide to Disaster Assistance, which you can download for free or purchase by calling (651) 223-5400. They also publish Disaster Readiness and Recovery: Legal Considerations for Organic Farmers.
- National Sustainable Agriculture Information Center has extensive links to resources.
- Farm Aid connects farmers to direct services, including financial counseling, technical assistance, legal advice and more.
If you are a farmer facing a financial emergency, RAFI’s farm advocate program may offer help finding the best solutions for you and your family through in-depth confidential advice and advocacy to lenders. We do not provide direct financial relief. For information, call Scott Marlow at (919) 542-1396 x210.