Thursday, December 14, 2017

USDA provides over $10M to help Caribbean farmers recover after hurricanes

By on November 21, 2017

Plantain fields in Moca, PR, damaged by Hurricane Maria (photo by Michelle Catoni, Oct 6, 2017)

Plantain fields in Moca, Puerto Rico, damaged by Hurricane María (Screen capture of www.nrcs.usda.gov photo by Michelle Catoni)

SAN JUAN – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is providing $10.9 million in “technical and financial” assistance to help farmers in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands repair damage and rebuild following hurricanes Irma and María.

This investment is through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), a Farm Bill conservation program available through USDA. Landowners must submit their applications by Jan. 19 to be considered for this funding.

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“USDA remains committed to helping the people of Puerto Rican agriculture with every means at our disposal,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a release Tuesday. “Through EQIP, we co-invest with farmers to repair and prevent soil erosion, address flooding and other water quality issues, as well as any other resource concerns resulting from high rainfall events and flooding.”

The NRCS is issuing waivers so farmers can receive payment and begin work before contract approval such as the “disposal of dead livestock, the construction of animal mortality facilities, replacement of roofs and covers on agricultural buildings and debris removal,” the release explains.

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In addition to assistance to farmers, the NRCS is helping communities repair dams and infrastructure impacted by the hurricanes. It is providing $1.75 million to local governments and entities through the Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) program to restore “damaged and destroyed” infrastructure.

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The program will pay 100 percent of the cost of  debris removal and emergency protective measures until March.

The USDA’s Farm Service Agency offers programs to help with disaster recovery, “including compensation for livestock death and feed losses, risk coverage for specialty crops, and repair of damaged agricultural and private forest land.”

Most recently, the FSA added emergency assistance for dairies in Puerto Rico to help provide feed for the remaining cattle. USDA’s Risk Management Agency also offers several Federal crop insurance plans.

For more information on the USDA programs, visit the Disaster Recovery Assistance webpage or contact the local USDA service center. Farmers may also call the Caribbean Area Disaster Recovery hotline at 787-303-0341.

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