Tornado Recovery: Resources for Farms

LAST UPDATED: September 2018
NC Department of Agriculture now has a resource page as well.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the communities in North Carolina and throughout the Southeast that are affected by last week’s storms. We have been getting some questions about what assistance is available for folks who had crops, livestock or buildings lost to the tornadoes. There are several government programs that are available to help.

On Tuesday, April 19, President Obama signed a disaster declaration for 10 NC counties.  According to the White House web site: “The President’s action makes federal funding available to affected individuals in the counties of Bertie, Bladen, Cumberland, Halifax, Harnett, Johnston, Lee, Onslow, Wake, and Wilson.”

The number of farms affected by these storms is small compared to hurricanes or droughts, but the damage to some of those farms is major. The days and weeks after the storm are critical in order for farmers to get the long-term assistance needed to recover. Please forward this information to affected farmers, relief workers, or community members that can use it. Let us know if you have ideas for places or people who can help get the word out.

Family First

Of course, the first step is to make sure that people and livestock are all safe, and have access to all of the necessities that they need to be safe and sound. That always comes first. Check with your county, municipal government and local Red Cross for immediate assistance.

Separate Farm and Household Damages

The agencies that administrate disaster assistance programs draw a firm line between the household and the farm.  If you have damage to your household, like a destroyed car or a need for food, a different set of agencies will deal with these needs. If you had damage to your farm, such as a destroyed farm truck or poultry mortalities due to a power failure, then you need to contact the Farm Service Agency.

Camera, Then Chainsaw

As you begin recovery from damage to your farms and buildings, remember to document first, clean up second. There are several programs that can assist with damage, but only if that damage is documented.  These programs (I will get to specifics in a minute) can also compensate farmers for the use of their equipment – tractors, chain saws, etc. – and for labor, both family and hired, that is used to clean up, so keep a log of what you do, what you use and who works how many hours.

Assistance with Assistance

Our Farm Advocacy Program can help farmers with confidential financial counseling, advice, or assistance with filling out the paperwork. We do not provide direct financial support.

Assistance Programs

Emergency Conservation Program

The first program that you should be aware of is the Emergency Conservation Program (ECP).  ECP provides cost-share funding for the expenses needed to rehabilitate land to production.  ECP most often provides cost-share funding for removing debris from fields and repairing fences, including the use of labor and equipment.

The state FSA has been authorized to administer the program, and they are waiting for requests to come from county-level FSA offices with estimates of damages.  Contact your county FSA office to participate. 

Emergency Loans

The Farm Services Agency also administers Emergency Loans for farmers who have had significant damage in disasters.  These are low-interest loans for the amount of the value of the damage.  Note that while they are low interest loans, the farmer still needs to qualify and show repayment ability like they would for any loan. Contact your county FSA office for information.

Livestock Indemnity Program

If you lost livestock, there is also the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) which pays farmers for lost livestock.  This program covers both livestock owners and contract producers. LIP sets an amount of compensation per animal based on USDA prices.  Contact your county FSA office as soon as possible for information.

Emergency Unemployment Compensation Program

Another program that farmers are probably not aware of is the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Program.  It is administered by the North Carolina State Employment Security Commission. It provides unemployment benefits to anyone who is prevented from working due to a natural disaster.  This includes farmers who are prevented from farming because they must spend their time cleaning up from the storm or farm workers who are no longer needed because of storm damage. These benefits are time limited and apply only to the time lost. If you are interested, contact your local Employment Security Commission office.

Forestry & Timber Salvage

Our friend Alton Perry at the NC Forest Service provided us with this information about handling damage to forestland:

It is evident that these tornadoes damaged forestland. At this time I don’t have any estimates of timber damage, but the NC Forest Service is currently assessing timber damage. If you sustained forestland damage I want to take this opportunity to stress that now more than ever it is imperative that you seek assistance from forestry professionals. These forestry professionals can assist with assessment of the amount of timber damaged, coordinate a salvage timber sale, assist with reforestation of the salvage area, insure that timber sale contracts are in place, and much more. The vast majority of loggers and timber buyers are honest professionals, who take pride in their timber harvests, appreciate long-term stewardship and environmental values. However, an unethical logger or timber buyer may take this opportunity to purchase valuable timber at salvage timber prices. Also, unethical loggers or timber buyers may take advantage of the opportunity to harvest more than the salvage area, reaping the benefits of valuable timber at salvage prices or the landowner may not receive any monetary value for that timber at all. Where can you get forestry assistance? You get started with your local NC Forest Service County Ranger. The NC Forest Service has a local ranger in all 100 counties in North Carolina. Our offices contact information can be found on the website at https://dfr.nc.gov or you may contact our Raleigh Central Office at 919-857-4801. I can be contacted at 919-857-4847 or toll free at 1-877-205-0056. Other forestry professionals to contact are consulting foresters; Timber Company registered foresters, NC Cooperative Extension Service, and North Carolina State University Extension Forestry. Helpful links include:

For more information on disasters visit: rafiusa.org/blog/category/issues/disasters

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