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USDA Officials to Visit Southern States Affected By Natural Disasters

Release No.
0213.11

Contact:
USDA Office of Communications (202) 720-4623

<p><i>USDA Officials Will Assess Damages and Discuss Available Assistance with Rural Communitiessup</i></p>

VIDALIA, La., May 19, 2011 — The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development Under Secretary Dallas Tonsager and Acting Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Michael Scuse will begin today a two-day tour of Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Missouri, to meet with those affected by recent disasters.

"With assistance from USDA and other Federal agencies, the Obama Administration is working to help residents, farmers, ranchers and businesses that have been hard hit by recent floods and tornadoes," said Tonsager.

"Our hearts go out to all of those affected by the disasters," said Scuse. "Our first-hand assessments will allow us to identify the unique farm safety net and rural community development needs of the impacted region."

USDA agencies have been working for weeks with state and local officials, as well as individuals, businesses, farmers and ranchers, as they begin the process of helping to get people back on their feet. USDA offers a variety of resources for states and individuals affected by the recent disasters. Individuals can also apply for other types of federal disaster assistance at www.disasterassistance.gov.

In rural communities, USDA's Rural Development will continue to work with existing individual and community borrowers that have been affected by a natural disaster to help them with their loans. With respect to loans guaranteed by Rural Development, borrowers should initially contact their lender for assistance.

Rural Development provides FEMA with regular information as to vacant units in multi-family housing complexes financed by the agency, and following a Presidential disaster declaration, FEMA can assist with placement and vouchers to cover short-term rental costs. Housing and business assistance programs are available over the longer term to help finance repair and replacement of homes and businesses.

USDA's Farm Service Agency provides emergency loans through the Emergency Loan Program to help producers recover from production and physical losses due to natural disasters. Producers will be eligible for these loans as soon as their county is declared a Presidential or Secretarial disaster county. Emergency loan funds may be used to: restore or replace essential property; pay all or part of production costs associated with the disaster year; pay essential family living expenses; reorganize the farming operation; and refinance certain debts.

The heavy rainfall and flood conditions across the Midwest and South have caused crop damage and slowed planting this spring. USDA's Risk Management Agency reminds producers faced with questions on prevented planting, replant, or crop losses this spring to contact their crop insurance agent for more information. USDA is working with the States affected to determine what damages qualify for crop insurance indemnities and/or the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments (SURE) Program. As announced by USDA earlier in May, producers who farm in the Morganza and Birds Point-New Madrid Floodways and purchased crop insurance will be eligible for crop insurance indemnities in accordance with the provisions of their crop insurance policies. Those producers who are unable to plant, but have purchased crop insurance, will be eligible for prevented planting payments in accordance with the provisions of their policies.

USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) administers the Emergency Watershed Protection program, which provides assistance to areas that have been damaged by natural disasters, such as floods, windstorms, drought, and wildfires. In partnership and through local government sponsors, NRCS helps local communities recover from natural disasters.

The USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) provides food assistance to those in need in areas affected by a disaster. This Federal assistance is in addition to that provided by State and local governments. USDA provides disaster food assistance in three ways: ;provides foods to State agencies for distribution to shelters and other mass feeding sites; provides food to State agencies for distribution directly to households in need in certain limited situations; and authorizes State agencies to issue Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) benefits.

USDA staff in the affected states can work with citizens and state and local and other federal officials to explain the type of aid that is available. For additional information and updates about USDA's relief efforts please visit www.usda.gov.