USDA offers assistance for Kansas farmers following natural disasters

FILE - Deer stand in a field near a wildfire near Ness City, Ks., on Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021....
FILE - Deer stand in a field near a wildfire near Ness City, Ks., on Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021. High winds across the central and northern plains on Wednesday resulted in several road closure and wildfires (Travis Heying/The Wichita Eagle via AP)((Travis Heying/The Wichita Eagle via AP))
Published: Dec. 28, 2021 at 3:43 PM CST
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MANHATTAN, Kan. (WIBW) - Following a windstorm, wildfires and extreme drought, the USDA has offered assistance to help Kansas farmers rebuild.

As Kansas’s agricultural operations are severely impacted by recent wildfires, a wind storm and an ongoing severe drought, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says it has set up technical and financial assistance for farmers and livestock producers on their road to recovery.

The USDA said impacted producers should contact their local USDA Service Center to report losses and learn more about options to help in their recovery from crop, land, infrastructure, and livestock losses and damages.

“Production agriculture is vital to the Kansas economy, and USDA stands ready to assist in the recovery from these wildfires and extreme drought conditions,” said Robert Bonnie, Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation (FPAC). “I assure you that USDA employees are working diligently to deliver FPAC’s extensive portfolio of disaster assistance programs and services to all impacted agricultural producers.”

The Department said those who experience livestock deaths or sell injured livestock at reduced prices as a result of the fires could be eligible for the Livestock Indemnity Program.

Meanwhile, the USDA said for both wildfire and drought recovery, the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program provides those eligible with assistance for feed losses, water hauling and feed transportation expenses. For ELAP, it said producers are required to file a notice of loss within 30 days and honeybee losses within 15 days.

Eligible orchardists and nursery tree growers could be eligible for cost-share assistance through the Tree Assistance Program to replant or rehabilitate eligible trees, bushes or vines lost during the drought. It said the program complements the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assitance Program or crop insurance coverage, which covers the crop but not the plants or trees in all cases. For TAP, it said a program application is required to be filled out within 90 days.

“Once you are able to safely evaluate the wildfire or drought impact on your operation, be sure to contact your local FSA office to timely report all crop, livestock and farm infrastructure damages and losses,” said Charles (Chuck) Pettijohn, Acting State Executive Director for the Farm Service Agency (FSA) in Kansas. “To expedite FSA disaster assistance, you will likely need to provide documents, such as farm records, herd inventory, receipts and pictures of damages or losses”

The Department said FSA also offers various direct and guaranteed farm loans, which include operating and emergency farm loans, to producers unable to get commercial financing. Producers in counties with a primary disaster designation could be eligible for low-interest emergency loans to help recover from production and physical losses. It said loans could help replace essential property, purchase inputs like livestock, equipment, feed and seed, cover family living expenses or refinance farm-related debts and other needs.

In addition to loan making, the Department offers loan servicing options for those unable to make scheduled payments USDA farm loan debt due to reasons beyond their control.

Those with risk protection through Federal Crop Insurance or FSA’s NAP should report damage to their crop insurance agent or FSA office. If producers have crop insurance they should report damage within 72 hours of discovery and follow up in writing within 15 days and for NAP covered crops, a notice of loss is required to be filed within 15 days of the loss becoming apparent, except for hand-harvested crops, which should be reported in 72 hours.

“Crop insurance and other USDA risk management options are there to help producers manage risk because we never know what nature has in store for the future,” said Collin Olsen, Director of RMA’s Regional Office that covers Kansas. “The Approved Insurance Providers, loss adjusters and agents are experienced and well trained in handling these types of events.”

Outside the primary nesting season, the USDA said emergency and non-emergency haying and grazing of Conservation Reserve Program acres could be authorized to give relief to producers in areas affected by a severe drought or similar natural disasters. Those interested in haying or grazing CRP acres should contact their county FSA office to see if they are eligible.

The Emergency Conservation Program and Emergency Forest Restoration Program could help landowners and forest stewards with financial and technical assistance to restore fencing, damaged farmland or forests. Additionally, it supports emergency conservation measures in times of severe drought.

The Department said its Natural Resources Conservation Service is also always available to help with technical assistance in the recovery process by helping producers plan and implement conservation practices on farms, ranches and working forests impacted by disaster.

Kansas producers could get technical and financial help to assist in the proper disposal of dead livestock using a practice called Animal Mortality Management through an emergency effort via Environmental Quality Incentives Program. Additionally, it said NRCS would look for opportunities to work with landowners to reapply conservation practices established through EQIP that failed due to wildfires and drought.

The USDA said producers who have experienced livestock losses are encouraged to file an EQIP application with their local NRCS Field Office. the program allows farmers and ranchers to apply for Emergency Animal Mortality Management which can help with incineration or carcass burial costs.

“USDA can be a very valuable partner to help landowners with their recovery and resiliency efforts,” said Karen Woodrich, NRCS State Conservationist in Kansas. “Our staff will work one-on-one with landowners to make assessments of the damages and develop approaches that focus on effective recovery of the land.”

The Department said additional NRCS programs include the Emergency Watershed Protection program, which provides help with the cost of addressing watershed impairments or hazards such as damaged upland sites stripped of vegetation via wildfire, debris removal and streambank stabilization to local governments

Those eligible for the EWP include cities, counties, towns or any federally recognized Native American tribe or tribal organization. Sponsors are required to submit a formal request to the state conservationist for assistance within 60 days of the natural disaster or 60 days from the date when access to the sites becomes available.

“EWP provides immediate assistance to communities to mitigate potential hazards to life and property resulting from the fires and particularly the severe erosion and flooding that can occur after the fire,” Woodrich said. “We can work with a local sponsor to help a damaged watershed so that lives and property are protected while preventing further devastation in the community.”

In addition to EWP, the USDA said Conservation Technical Assitance is another service the NRCS can provide following a wildfire. NRCS technical assistance can help victims with planning cost-effective post-fire restoration practices.

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