Pigs escape Valley Fire

Pigs look for food while wandering a forest burned by the Valley Fire in California. The fire burned over 95 square miles and destroyed hundreds of homes.

USDA help for farmers, ranchers affected by wildfire

Forest Service spending over 50 percent of its budget to suppress wild fires this year Local Farm Service Agency offices will have information on programs Emergency loans will be made available

U.S. Farm Service Agency Administrator Val Dolcini tells Western Farm Press that he will likely tour fire-ravaged parts of California and the West in October to help the Obama Administration get an up-close look at fire impacts to farmers and ranchers.

Dolcini grew up in Davis, Calif., which he still calls his home town.

According to Dolcini, the more immediate goal is to allow firefighters to “contain, control and extinguish these fires.” Beyond that, Dolcini says his agency stands ready to assist farmers and ranchers with their recoveries.

“Wildfires have caused devastating losses for many farmers and ranchers,” said Dolcini. “Over the past several years, wildfires have increased in severity, intensity and cost as the fire season has grown longer, and drought and increased temperatures contribute to dangerous conditions. Natural disasters such as wildfires are unavoidable, but USDA has strong safety-net programs to help producers get back on their feet.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) wants farmers and ranchers affected by the recent wildfires in several western states that the agency has programs to assist with their recovery efforts.

“We have a lot of resources we can provide,” Dolcini continued.

The Farm Service Agency (FSA) can assist farmers and ranchers who lost livestock, grazing land, fences or eligible trees, bushes and vines as a result of a natural disaster.

FSA administers a suite of safety-net programs to help producers recover from eligible losses, including the Livestock Indemnity Program, the Livestock Forage Disaster Programthe Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program, and the Tree Assistance Program.

According to Dolcini, farmers and ranchers can help their recovery process by gathering as much printed information as possible on their operations, including acreages, number of head of livestock, business records, photographic evidence and other legal information they may have provided federal agencies or private lenders and insurance agencies.

“It’s important they keep good records of these losses,” Dolcini said.

In addition, the FSA Emergency Conservation Program provides funding and technical assistance for farmers and ranchers to rehabilitate farmland damaged by natural disasters and for carrying out emergency water conservation measures in periods of severe drought.

Emergency loans

Producers located in counties that received a primary or contiguous disaster designation are eligible for low-interest emergency loans to help them recover from production and physical losses. Compensation is also available to producers who purchased coverage through the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program, which protects non-insurable crops against natural disasters that result in lower yields, crop losses or prevented planting.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) can assist producers with damaged grazing land as well as farmers, ranchers and forestland owners who find themselves in emergency situations caused by natural disasters.

The NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program provides financial assistance to producers who agree to defer grazing on damaged land for two years. In the event that presidentially declared natural disasters, such as wildfires, lead to imminent threats to life and property, NRCS can assist local government sponsors with the cost of implementing conservation practices to address natural resource concerns and hazards through the Emergency Watershed Protection Program.

“After natural disasters such as wildfires, it is critical that farmers, ranchers and forestland owners have financial and technical resources available to protect their natural resources and operations,” said NRCS Chief Jason Weller. “Conservation practices protect the land and aid recovery, but can build the natural resource base and may help mitigate loss in future events.”

Farmers and ranchers with coverage through the federal crop insurance program administered by the Risk Management Agency (RMA) should contact their crop insurance agent to discuss losses due to fire or other natural causes of loss. Crop insurance is sold and delivered solely through private crop insurance agents. A list of crop insurance agents is available at all USDA Service Centers and online at the RMA Agent Locator.

When wildfires destroy or severely damage residential property, Rural Development (RD) can assist with providing priority hardship application processing for single family housing. Under a disaster designation, RD can issue a priority letter for next available multi-family housing units. RD also provides low-interest loans to community facilities, water environmental programs, businesses and cooperatives and to rural utilities.
For the first time in its 110-year history, the Forest Service, part of USDA, is spending more than 50 percent of its budget to suppress the nation's wildfires.

Today, fire seasons are 78 days longer than in the 1970s. Since 2000, at least 10 states have had their largest fires on record. This year, there have been more than 46,000 fires. Increasing development near forest boundaries also drives up costs, as more than 46 million homes and more than 70,000 communities are at risk from wildfire in the United States.

Visit http://go.usa.gov/3eDeF to learn more about USDA disaster preparedness and response. For more information on USDA disaster assistance programs, please contact your local USDA Service Center.

To find your local USDA Service Center go to http://offices.usda.gov.

For the latest on western agriculture, please check out Western Farm Press Daily and receive the latest news right to your inbox.

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