HURRICANE IRMA AGRICULTURE RELIEF PROGRAMS
The damage from Hurricane Irma has caused significant financial loss to Florida growers in sales revenue from crops lost or delayed and clean up expense. This article is a compilation of disaster programs and resources to assist the agriculture industry. Most importantly, be sure to document all of your damages and expenses associated with the hurricane— save receipts, take photos and videos, and make notes for applying for assistance programs. Scan the QR codes with your smart device for additional information.
USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA)
The USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) offers disaster assistance and low-interest loan programs to assist agricultural producers in their recovery efforts following floods or similar qualifying natural disasters. With the Presidential Disaster Declaration for all 67 Florida counties, emergency procedures have either been put in place or in some cases are being considered to streamline processing and extend deadlines. Florida senators Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson have urged Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue in a letter Wednesday to approve funding disaster aid in these programs “as quickly as possible” so farmers and affected communities can rebuild.
You should contact your local FSA office as soon as possible as application deadlines exist.
- Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) – provides emergency funding for farmers and ranchers to rehabilitate land severely damaged by natural disasters; includes fence loss. Up to 75 percent of the cost to implement emergency conservation practices can be provided, however the final amount is determined by the committee reviewing the application. Qualified limited resource producers may earn up to 90 percent cost-share. The FSA County Committee is able to approve applications up to $50,000 while $50,001 to $100,000 requires state committee approval. Amounts over $100,000 require the approval of the national FSA office. Learn more about the ECP by scanning the QR code here.
- Tree Assistance Program (TAP) – provides assistance to eligible orchardists and nursery tree growers for qualifying tree, shrub, and vine losses due to natural disaster. Blueberry bushes would be covered under this program. There are income caps in place that legislators are working to expand due to the disaster declaration. Learn more about the TAP by scanning the QR code here.
- Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP) – provides emergency relief for losses due to feed or water shortages, disease, adverse weather, or other conditions, which are not adequately addressed by other disaster programs. ELAP covers physically damaged or destroyed livestock feed that was purchased or mechanically harvested forage or feedstuffs intended for use as feed for the producer’s eligible livestock. In order to be considered eligible, harvested forage must be baled; forage that is only cut, raked or windrowed is not eligible. Producers must submit a notice of loss to their local FSA office within 30 calendar days of when the loss is apparent.
ELAP also covers up to 150 lost grazing days in instances when a producer has been forced to remove livestock from a grazing pasture due to floodwaters.
For beekeepers, ELAP covers beehive losses (the physical structure) in instances where the hive has been destroyed by a natural disaster, including flooding, high winds, and tornadoes. Learn more about the ELAP by scanning the QR code here.
- Non-Insured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) – provides financial assistance to producers of non-insurable crops when low yields, loss of inventory, or prevented planting occur due to natural disasters (includes native grass for grazing). NAP is available for crops not covered under the USDA Multi Peril Crop Insurance Program. Eligible producers must have purchased NAP coverage for 2017 crops. Producers must notify their local FSA offices of damage or loss within 72 hours of damage discovery and follow up in writing within 15 days. Learn more about the NAP by scanning the QR code here.
- Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) – offers payments to eligible producers for livestock death losses in excess of normal mortality due to adverse weather. Eligible losses may include those determined by FSA to have been caused by hurricanes, floods, blizzards, wildfires, tropical storms, tornados lightening, extreme heat, and extreme cold. Producers will be required to provide verifiable documentation of death losses resulting from an eligible adverse weather event and must submit a notice of loss to their local FSA office within 30 calendar days of when the loss of livestock was apparent. Learn more about the LIP by scanning the QR code here.
- Emergency Forestry Restoration Program (EFRP) – non-industrial private forestlands reforestation and debris removal due to Hurricane Irma. Learn more about the EFRP by scanning the QR code here.
- Emergency Loan Program – available to producers with agriculture operations located in a county under a primary or contiguous Secretarial Disaster designation. These low interest loans help producers recover from production and physical losses due to drought and/or flooding. Learn more about this program by scanning the QR code here.
- The Disaster Loan Set-Aside Program – provides producers who have existing direct loans with FSA who are unable to make the scheduled payments to move up to one full year’s payment to the end of the loan. Assistance is available in counties, or contiguous counties, who have been designated as emergencies by the president, secretary, or FSA administrator. Learn more about this program by scanning the QR code here.
- HayNet – is an online Hay and Grazing Net Ad Service allowing farmers and ranchers to share “Need Hay” ads and “Have Hay” ads online. Farmers also can use another feature to post advertisements for grazing land, specifically ads announcing the availability of grazing land or ads requesting a need for land to graze. Learn more about HayNet by scanning the QR code here.
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)
- The Emergency Watershed Protection Program (EWP) – assists sponsors, landowners, and operators in implementing emergency recovery measures for runoff retardation and erosion prevention to relieve imminent hazards to life and property created by natural disasters. Eligible activities may include removing debris, reshaping and protecting eroded banks, removing carcasses, and repairing levees and structures. The federal contribution toward the implementation of emergency measures may not exceed 75 percent of the construction cost. Applications are filed with the local or state NRCS office. Learn more about the EWP program by scanning the QR code here.
- Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) – Florida farmers, ranchers, and forest owners can apply until November 17 for financial and technical assistance through EQIP for fiscal year 2018 funding. Although applications are accepted on a continuous basis for all programs, funding selections are typically made once a year.
Through EQIP, agricultural landowners may receive financial and technical assistance to improve soil, water, air, plants, animals, and related resources. Eligible land includes cropland, rangeland, pastureland, private non-industrial forestland, and other farm or ranch lands. The application deadline also applies to EQIP-funded initiatives. Learn more about EQIP by scanning the QR code here.
Federal crop insurance program policies sold and serviced through approved private insurance companies must be in place prior to the natural disaster event. Due to the Presidential Disaster Declaration, the USDA Risk Management Agency is considering streamlined claims adjustment procedures. Here are best practices:
- Notify your agent within 72 hours (3 days) of your initial discovery of damage.
- Losses may be reported by telephone or in person to your crop insurance agent. However, this must be confirmed in writing within 15 days by email or letter.
- Document all of your damages and expenses associated with the hurricane (save receipts, take photos and videos, and make notes).
- You must obtain the insurance companies’ written consent prior to:
- Destroying, selling, or otherwise disposing of any fruit, trees, or plants that are damaged; or
- Changing or discontinuing your normal growing practices with respect to care and maintenance of the grove and/or crop; or
- Abandoning any portion of the insured crop.
In order for your claim to be settled expeditiously, cooperate with the adjuster by showing them the damaged crop, allowing samples of the insured crop to be taken, have the prior three years production records available and provide the adjuster with all requested documents in a timely manner. Please be assured that companies have adjusters on the ground to process your claims as quickly as possible. However, with the massive loss across the state, please follow the procedures above for reporting your claim, document all conversations and correspondence, stay in touch with your agent, and be patient. The more records you have available, the quicker the process will be.
Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program
This program, activated by Governor Scott, is intended to provide cash flow to Florida small businesses impacted by a disaster. These are short-term, interest free working capital loans, and are intended to provide “bridge capital” between the time a disaster strikes and when a business has secured long-term recovery resources. These include, but are not limited to, insurance proceeds, federal disaster assistance, or sufficient profits from a revived business. For more information, visit FloridaDisasterLoan.org.
Small Business Administration
Businesses and private nonprofit organizations of any size may borrow up to $2 million to repair or replace disaster damaged or destroyed real estate, machinery and equipment, inventory, and other business assets.
For small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in aquaculture and most private nonprofit organizations, the SBA offers Economic Injury Disaster Loans to help meet working capital needs caused by the disaster. Economic Injury Disaster Loan assistance is available regardless of whether the business suffered any physical property damage.
Disaster loans up to $200,000 are available to homeowners to repair or replace disaster damaged or destroyed real estate. Homeowners and renters are eligible up to $40,000 for repairing and replacing disaster-damaged or destroyed personal property.
Interest rates are as low as 3.305 percent for businesses, 2.5 percent for nonprofit organizations, and 1.75 percent for homeowners and renters with terms up to 30 years. Loan amounts and terms are set by the SBA and are based on each applicant’s financial condition.
Note the following in regard to production agriculture operations and eligibility:
Generally, SBA is precluded by law from providing disaster loans to agricultural enterprises. See below for more information:
- Farmers whose primary residence and/or personal property (including automobiles) were damaged as a result of Hurricane Irma, Florida can apply for SBA disaster home loans.
- If a business is engaged in both agricultural and non-agricultural activities, only the non-agricultural venture may apply for SBA physical disaster loan (Code of Federal Regulation 13, 123.201). Packing houses and value-added activities may qualify. As in all cases, SBA will review all information submitted with the application for a loan decision.
- Small businesses engaged in aquaculture can apply for SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans (same as working capital).
- Nurseries are only eligible to apply for SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans under a Secretary of Agriculture Disaster declaration for drought conditions. Nurseries are not eligible to apply for SBA disaster loan program under this presidential declaration.
Applicants may apply online using the Electronic Loan Application (ELA) via the SBA’s secure website at disasterloan.sba.gov/ela.
FEMA disaster assistance: disasterassistance.gov.
by REGINA THOMAS, Farm Credit of Central Florida’s Director of Financially Related Services. For questions or more information, please contact her at 800-533-2773 or RThomas@FarmCreditCFL.com.