As Hurricane Ian strengthened into a Category 4 storm on Wednesday, many farmers across the forecasted impact region may be wondering, “what can I do to prepare?” Or “what will I do if the farm suffers damage and losses?” Equally, organizations that support farmers and rural communities may be wondering how they can best assist those who will be adversely affected by Ian. This blog contains a summary of resources and tips for farmers and farm-serving organizations on how to prepare, respond, and recover from natural disasters, like Hurricane Ian. We will continue to update this article as recovery efforts continue.
PREPARING FOR THE STORM
In addition to developing a family emergency plan and gathering an essential household supplies kit, farmers should prepare for disasters by:
- Document a full inventory of farm assets; buildings, vehicles, equipment, crops, and livestock before the storm. Take pictures or videos.
- Locate and properly store (or create digital copies of) important documents like leases, harvest records, grower agreements, deeds, etc.
- Remove unsecured debris and tie down large objects around the farm. Most injuries to animals, people, and structures are caused by flying objects.
- Be in contact with your local Farm Service Agency office. Make sure you’re signed up to receive alerts about disaster assistance programs. Submitting production records in advance can also make the application process easier for some disaster relief programs.
For Farm Serving Organizations
Farm-serving organizations can help before a natural disaster by encouraging farmers to take the preparedness steps outlined above. It’s also helpful to be familiarized with disaster assistance programs that farmers may be able to access if they experience farm damage or loss. Check out the following resources for more information about state and federal disaster assistance programs.
- Navigating Farm Disaster Assistance – table containing a comprehensive list of available programs
- Disaster Relief Programs – more in-depth information on three prominent FSA disaster relief programs; ELAP, LIP, and ECP
- Disaster Recovery Resources – includes a summary of both farm and non-farm disaster assistance resources
AFTER THE STORM
If you experience farm damage or losses after a natural disaster, here are some next steps you can take to make the road to recovery easier..
- Document Everything – a first impulse may be to start cleaning up as soon as the storm passes. But before taking out the chainsaw, pick up the camera. Take another full inventory of buildings, vehicles, equipment, crops, and livestock and take pictures, videos, or notes of any damage sustained.
- Report Farm Losses – there are several FSA disaster relief programs that require farmers to report losses to their local office within a certain timeline. See our page on Disaster Relief Programs for more details. So be in contact with your local FSA office if there is farm damage or loss and to receive information on program deadlines.
- Know Which Agency to Contact – Generally speaking, farmers should contact FEMA for household-related damage and losses (the physical house or household possessions). Contact the USDA regarding damage to the farm operation. And if the farm operation includes a separate business (i.e. value-added operation), farmers may contact the Small Business Administration
Check out RAFI-USA’s Disaster Recovery Resources for Farmers webpage for more information. The webpage includes two short videos on Documenting Disasters and the Division of Disaster Assistance.
Farmers are encouraged to call RAFI-USA’s Farmer Hotline if they are experiencing financial stress due to a natural disaster or if they need help navigating disaster assistance programs. Call us toll-free at 866.586.6746.
For Farmer Serving Organizations
As clean-up efforts begin, farmer-serving organizations can help by tracking important information about when disaster assistance programs open, when they close, and what farmers need to do to access them. Although the USDA has existing communication channels to alert farmers of disaster relief programs, they may not reach every farmer, especially those who haven’t participated in USDA programs before. So farmer-serving organizations can play a huge role in helping to spread the information to those in their networks.
Encourage farmers to document damage as well as to keep notes from all conversations with FSA, FEMA, insurers, or other assistance organizations. Another early advocacy step organizations can make to assist those who are facing food insecurity after a disaster is to ask for the state to put in a request for Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program funds.