As Hurricane Florence approaches, our thoughts are with everyone bracing for the storm. Here in North Carolina, where RAFI is based, we have seen our share of storms, but this one is potentially historic. Federal Disaster Declarations have already been approved for NC, SC, and VA. We urge everyone to follow the directives of local officials and not to take chances. What you do immediately after the storm can mean a great deal of difference to your recovery. While our eyes are still on the sky (and the news) we want to help you prepare for the storm and the days after.
In the days following the storm, getting assistance will require being very organized at a time when your life is chaotic. We have seen over and over in many disaster situations that being able to access assistance often makes the difference between farms surviving or not. Below are steps you can take to prepare before and after Florence and a list of disaster recovery resources.
Please know that when the storm has passed, there are many of us and partners across the country ready to assist. Farmers, please call us with any questions at 919-542-1396 and press #1 for the farmer hotline or reach the hotline directly toll-free at 866-586-6746.
The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has also activated its hotline to connect farmers with resources to assist with agricultural emergencies. The toll-free number is 1-866-645-9403. The hotline operates 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Steps to Take Now
- PUT YOUR RECORDS IN A SAFE PLACE: Take a few minutes today to get your records including financial records, insurance, loan or ownership documents to a safe place, ideally backed up electronically. Scan/email them or text a photo of each document to yourself and someone else so that you can access them from anywhere. Examples of important documents include:
- Supplies you purchased for your crops (receipts for fertilizer, seed, etc.)
- Harvest and sales records
- Contract growers – flock placement or pig placement/turn records
- TAKE PICTURES: Take pictures of your home and farm, especially equipment, barns, and crops in the field, for use in documenting losses later. Make sure the photos are time stamped/dated.
- UNDERSTAND WHAT DIFFERENT AGENCIES DO: Assistance from the three main agencies – the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), USDA Farm Services Agency, and Small Business Administration (SBA) – does not overlap, but people can get help from any of the three. FEMA helps with damage to households (including farm households), USDA with farms, SBA with businesses, although they also do some home loans. Sometimes people can mistakenly think that FEMA does not serve farmers. They DO serve farm households, just not specifically farm damage. Learn more about the important distinctions between these agencies and when to approach each agency here.
Steps to Take After the Storm
- DOCUMENT DAMAGE: Once the storm has passed, unless there is danger to people, animals or property, take up the camera first and the chainsaw 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 after the disaster, even years after the disaster, and a family can only receive assistance for damage that they have documented. For instance, the Emergency Conservation Program can compensate farmers for work 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. Download this Documenting Disaster Losses (PDF) to learn more.
- WRITE EVERYTHING DOWN: Get a notebook and keep it with you during recovery, writing down what you did, what officials you talked to about disaster programs, and notes from the conversation. If at all possible, have two people involved in the conversation so one can ask questions and the other can take notes. Do not expect yourself to remember.
- USE DISASTER ASSISTANCE RESOURCES: Click here for links to a series of disaster resources.
- TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF DURING RECOVERY: Learn about the common stages we, as people and communities, go through after a disaster strikes here. Disaster recovery takes a long time and can be very stressful.
We hope these resources are helpful, and we want you to know that folks all over the country are behind you and ready to help however they can. The water will recede, the sun will come out, and, with lots of help, you will get through this. Again, please call us with any questions at 919-542-1396 and press #1 for the farmer hotline or reach the hotline directly toll-free at 866-586-6746.
And if you’re outside of Florence’s path and able to financially support your fellow farmers through RAFI, we’d be honored to serve their needs on your behalf. Please donate here.