Hurricane Sandy Damage? Sign Up Now for Emergency Conservation Program

Producers who suffered severe damage from Hurricane Sandy have until January 29, 2013 to sign up for cost-share assistance through the Emergency Conservation Program (ECP). Removing debris from farmland and restoring permanent fencing are two rehabilitation measures that may be eligible for assistance of up to 75% of their cost. To be eligible, approved restoration measures must not be carried out until an application has been filed, the Farm Service Agency (FSA) has done an on-site inspection of damage, and a needs determination has been made by the appropriate agency.

Contact your local FSA office to find out whether your farm is eligible and how to apply. Also see Farm Aid’s list of resources for farmers facing natural disasters, as well as an earlier blog post on post-Sandy resources.

USDA Announces New Micro-loan Program

The USDA has launched a new program that will provide micro-loans of up to $35,000 to small, beginning, and socially disadvantaged farmers. The program aims to help producers pay for start-up expenses (like hoop houses for season extension, essential tools, irrigation, delivery vehicles, etc.) and annual expenses (seed, fertilizer, utilities, land rents, marketing, and distribution costs). The USDA has purposely simplified the application process for this program, making it less burdensome in comparison to traditional federal farm loans.

If interested in applying for a loan, contact your local Farm Service Agency (FSA) office. For more information, see this fact sheet on the FSA’s website.

Hispanic & Women’s Discrimination Claims Process Now Open

The claims process for Hispanic & women farmers and ranchers claiming discriminatory FSA practices is now open. Farmers who faced discriminatory denials of farm loans or service assistance by the USDA between 1981 and 2000 can file their claims through March 25, 2013. This voluntary claims process offers an alternative to litigation and requires no fees or legal representation. At least $1.33 billion will be made available for awards and payments, and an additional $160 million will be available in farm debt relief to eligible farmers and ranchers. To register for a claims package, call 1-888-508-4429 or visit www.farmerclaims.gov.

Farm Aid’s partner, the Federation of Southern Cooperatives released Tips for Completing Claims Form for Hispanic and Women Farmers and Ranchers to assist farmers in the claims process. The guide provides in-depth explanations of each question on the USDA claims form and step-by-step instructions for how to answer and file properly. For direct assistance from the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, contact John Zippert, Director of Programs, at 205.652.9676 (johnzippert@federation.coop) or Mircha King, Lawsuit Legal Coordinator, at 800.503.5678 (mirchaking@federation.coop).

Another Farm Aid partner, the Women, Food and Agriculture Network (WFAN) will host a free webinar on January 8, 2013 at 11 AM EST/10 AM Central Time to address questions about eligibility and offer assistance in filing claims. Representatives from the Farmers Legal Action Group and Rural Coalition/Coalicion Rural will be presenting. The public is invited to log-in here, or access the archived webinar through WFAN after the event.

 

Resources for Family Farmers Affected by Hurricane Sandy

As Hurricane Sandy barrels into the Northeast, many farmers are feeling the impact of this superstorm. Family farm organizations, state departments of agriculture and emergency management agencies have issued warning, urging farmers to prepare for the storm’s damage. The National Young Farmers’ Coalition has compiled a list of preparedness suggestions to help farmers minimize destruction to their crops, livestock, equipment and farmland.

As the storm continues, farmers are encouraged to take important steps to prepare for the after-effects:

  • Compile important phone numbers and documents for your county extension agent, crop insurance agent, emergency management district, county Farm Service Agency (FSA) and veterinarians.
  • Document and photograph farm losses to report to your state’s FSA office.
  • Visit the FSA website for more information on Disaster Assistance Programs.
  • Any damage to homes or barns should be reported to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at 1-800-621-FEMA.

For state-specific information about Hurricane Sandy, contact your state’s department of agriculture.

This post will be updated with more resources as they come in. Please let us know if we are missing any important information or assistance programs. Stay safe!

**UPDATE** For information on how to support recovery efforts in state’s affected by Sandy, visit the Responding to Sandy resources page compiled by The Vermont Community Foundation. Visit Farm Aid’s Disaster Assistance for Family Farmers page for a comprehensive list of recovery resources available to farmers facing natural disasters.

 

Updated Farm Service Agency Loan Factsheets Available

The Farm Service Agency (FSA) shared an updated farm loan program factsheet on its website with new information effective October 1, 2012. The factsheet provides an overview of the types of loans available and borrower eligibility information. Under the FSA farm loans program, farmers can apply for farm ownership loans, farm operating loans, a downpayment program for socially disadvantaged and beginning farmers, rural youth loans, emergency loans, conservation loans, land contract guarantees and loan servicing and supervised credit.

Farm Loan Information Chart is also available, providing a concise summary for each loan program and details on the maximum borrowing amount and the rates and terms and use of proceeds for each type of loan.

Visit the FSA website for more information on FSA Farm Loan programs.

A Big Boost for Small Farmers: New Microloan Rule Proposed by FSA

A new rule proposed by the USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) suggests federal programs will be better equipped to meet the needs of America’s small farmers. The rule, announced by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack last week, creates a new microloan program for small and beginning farmers, providing loans of up to $35,000. These smaller loans are tailored to provide enough capital for farmers to cover the costs of running a smaller-scale operation, with a simplified and streamlined application process.

Public comments on the proposed rule will be accepted until July 23, 2012. Make your voice heard in support of this and other programs like it that support the needs of small, beginning and sustainable family farmers—click here to view the rule and submit your comments in support of this important work!