USDA Assists Iowa Farmers, Ranchers, Communities Affected by Flooding

To help residents, farmers, and ranchers affected by the devastation caused by recent flooding, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has directed the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to aid Iowans in their recovery efforts. USDA staff in the regional, state, and county offices are providing a variety of program flexibilities and other assistance to residents, agricultural producers, and impacted communities at large.

“USDA is committed to helping Iowa farmers, ranchers and communities impacted by the devastating flooding to successfully recover following this disaster,” Perdue said. “Our staff in your local USDA Service Center is eager to help connect you with the vital services we offer, and where possible, putting people before paperwork.”

Helping Operations Recover After Disasters

Beginning today, USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices in the Iowa counties of Fremont, Harrison, Mills, Monona, Pottawattamie and Woodbury are accepting applications for the Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) to address damages from spring flooding. ECP enrollment deadlines may vary by county, as such, producers need to contact their local FSA office for more information. Additional flexibilities have been provided to help reduce and streamline the burdensome environmental assessments typically required by ECP.

Last week, FSA also announced that emergency grazing use of Conservation Reserve Program acres is approved in Iowa through May 14, 2019. Orchardists and nursery tree growers may be eligible for assistance through USDA’s Tree Assistance Program to help replant or rehabilitate eligible trees, bushes, and vines damaged by natural disasters.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provides financial resources through its Environmental Quality Incentives Program to help with immediate needs and long-term support to help recover from natural disasters and conserve water resources.

USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has information about protecting livestock on its Protecting Livestock During a Disaster page. Additionally, the agency is helping to meet the emergency needs of pets and their owners, as inspectors are coordinating closely with zoos, breeders, and other licensed facilities in the region to ensure the safety of animals in their care.

Farm Production and Conservation Agencies Helping Producers Weather Financial Impacts

When major disasters strike, USDA has an emergency loan program that provides eligible farmers low-interest loans to help them recover from production and physical losses. USDA also offers additional programs tailored to the needs of specific agricultural sectors to help producers weather the financial impacts of major disasters and rebuild their operations.

Livestock owners and contract growers who experience above normal livestock deaths due to specific weather events, as well as to disease or animal attacks, may qualify for assistance under USDA’s Livestock Indemnity Program. Producers who suffer losses to or are prevented from planting agricultural commodities not covered by federal crop insurance may be eligible for assistance under USDA’s Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program if the losses were due to natural disasters.

USDA’s Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program provides payments to these producers to help compensate for losses due to disease (including cattle tick fever), and adverse weather or other conditions, such as blizzards and wildfires, that are not covered by certain other disaster programs.

Helping Iowans Access Food Post-Storm

Following the flooding in Iowa, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) approved Iowa’s request to operate the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) in the Iowa counties of Fremont, Harrison, Mills, Monona and Woodbury. Households that may not normally be eligible under regular SNAP rules may qualify for D-SNAP if they meet the disaster income limits and have qualifying disaster-related expenses.

FNS also is providing extended time for current SNAP recipients in these Iowa counties to seek replacement of food lost due to the disaster. SNAP regulations normally require households to report lost food within 10 days of purchase. However, USDA approved the Iowa Department of Human Services’ request to extend this time period, so SNAP households have until April 30, 2019, to request replacement benefits.

USDA Helping Residents Protect the Safety of their Food

As residents make it back into their homes, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is helping ensure they are taking the proper steps to reduce the risk of foodborne illness. Food safety tips after a power outage and flooding are available on the FSIS website.

USDA encourages those whose homes flooded during the storm to take steps to protect the safety of their food.

Tips to protect food safety after flooding occurs:

  • Drink only bottled water that has not come in contact with flood water. Discard any bottled water that may have come in contact with flood water.
  • Discard any food that is not in a waterproof container if there is any chance it may have come in contact with flood water. Food containers that are not waterproof include those with screw-caps, snap lids, pull tops, and crimped caps.
  • Discard wooden cutting boards, plastic utensils, baby bottle nipples, and pacifiers that may have come in contact with flood water.
  • Thoroughly wash with hot soapy water all metal pans, ceramic dishes, and utensils that came in contact with flood water. Sanitize by boiling them in clean water or by immersing them for 15 minutes in a solution of 1 tablespoon unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of drinking water.
  • Undamaged, commercially prepared foods in all-metal cans and retort pouches (for example, flexible, shelf-stable juice or seafood pouches) can be saved. Follow the “Steps to Salvage All-Metal Cans and Retort Pouches” in the publication Keeping Food Safe During an Emergency at: www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/emergency-preparedness/keeping-food-safe-during-an-emergency/CT_Index

USDA Helping Impacted Communities Recover

During declared natural disasters that lead to imminent threats to life and property, NRCS can assist local government sponsors with the cost of implementing recovery efforts such as debris removal and streambank stabilization to address natural resource concerns and hazards through the Emergency Watershed Protection Program.

USDA Rural Development (RD) offers technical assistance, loans, grants, and loan guarantees to rural communities and individuals to assist with the construction or rehabilitation of utility infrastructure including water and wastewater systems, community infrastructure, and housing.

Housing Programs

Homeowners who have an RD home loan and were impacted by the flood should call the Customer Service Center at 800-414-1226 to discuss payment assistance options. Homeowners with an RD guaranteed home loan should immediately contact their lender and file an insurance claim.

Community Programs

Rural communities of 10,000 or fewer residents who have suffered a significant decline in the quantity or quality of their water may be eligible for Emergency Community Water Assistance Grants to establish new water sources or repair water transmission lines. Communities also may be eligible for Special Evaluation Assistance for Rural Communities and Households grants to begin developing feasibility studies for new water and waste disposal projects. Please contact USDA Rural Development staff in the Atlantic office at712-243-2107, Ext. 4, or visit www.rd.usda.gov/ia for more information.

Business Programs

RD also partners with the U.S. Small Business Administration to assist rural businesses impacted by natural disasters. Please call 515-284-4663 or visit www.rd.usda.gov/programs-services/business-industry-loan-guarantees/ia for more information.

Long-Term Recovery and Rehabilitation

RD offers more than 40 direct loan, guaranteed loan, grant and technical assistance programs to help communities impacted by natural disasters with their long-term recovery and rehabilitation efforts. The programs assist rural communities and individuals with the construction or rehabilitation of utility infrastructure including water, wastewater, electric and telecommunications systems. They also help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas, expand housing opportunities, and enhance community services such as public safety, education and health care.

Additional information can be found at www.rd.usda.gov/programs-services/services/rural-development-disaster-assistance.