The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is taking steps in coordination with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to assist those affected by Hurricane Sandy. In addition to working with FEMA and other departments, agencies, state and local governments, USDA is also reaching out to farmers and ranchers in states affected by recent extreme weather.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, USDA personnel are working in the following areas:
- USDA Forest Service (FS) wildfire suppression crews and incident management teams are being mobilized and sent to the East Coast to support state and local partners as they respond to Hurricane Sandy. Currently, six incident management teams and eleven wildfire suppression crews, a total of more than 250 personnel, are staged in or en route to New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Washington, D.C in coordination with local emergency managers. Wildfire suppression crews and incident management teams typically perform tasks such as clearing downed trees from roads so that local responders can conduct search and rescue missions; assisting at Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) logistics facilities that provide water and other commodities needed to sustain life; providing communications equipment and support to local emergency response agencies; and command and control support for emergency response agencies.
- USDA Rural Development (RD) staff is reaching out to all telecommunications, electric and water system borrowers in areas affected by Hurricane Sandy to assess any damages and offer full and immediate assistance where necessary. RD is working with members of the National Rural Electric Cooperatives Association (NRECA) to determine how to most effectively meet requests for assistance to help restore power and with the National Rural Water Association (through their state associations) and 38 Circuit Riders funded through an existing USDA contract, to help rural communities assess water system outages and damages. Also, RD has given approval for Circuit Riders in states that were not affected to travel to the affected area to assist in recovery efforts.
- USDA Rural Development (RD) has also updated its list of available housing units suitable for emergency shelter and has provided this information to FEMA.
- USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) also announced that it is advancing Emergency Watershed Protection technical assistance funds to 10 States in the affected region to assist in disaster recovery.
- USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) has reached out to state partners to offer food assistance to those in need in areas affected by a disaster. At present, affected states are assessing their needs and no formal requests for assistance have been received. However, FNS fully expects to receive requests from affected states as they complete their assessments and determine what response best meets the needs of their citizens. FNS will continue to work closely with the affected states to provide support and technical assistance as needed. FNS may provide food assistance during disasters in the following ways: providing USDA Foods to state agencies for distribution to shelters and other mass feeding sites; providing USDA Foods to state agencies for distribution directly to households in need in certain limited situations; and authorizing state agencies to issue Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) benefits.
- USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is monitoring the regulated meat, poultry, and processed egg product industry to ensure FSIS' regulated products are safe for consumers. FSIS has published food safety messages for consumers.
- USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has deployed animal care experts to provide pet-liaison services to FEMA in Philadelphia, as well as a plant pest expert to the Massachusetts State Emergency Operations Center to provide information and guidance on Asian Long Horned Beetle quarantines to FEMA's Incident Management Assistance Teams as they plan for debris removal. APHIS Animal Care is coordinating with the National Animal Rescue and Sheltering Coalition (NARSC) and the National Alliance of State Animal and Agriculture Emergency Programs (NASAAEP) who are staging a distribution center at the State Fairgrounds in Syracuse, NY with supplies for companion animals.
- USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) today urged producers in need or those with questions to contact their local county or state USDA Service Center or Farm Service Agency office for assistance and to keep thorough records of all losses, including livestock death losses, as well as additional expenses for such things as feed purchases and extraordinary costs because of lost supplies and temporary shelters or transportation. Producers with damaged farmland should also contact their local FSA office. The Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) may be able to assist producers who need to repair farmland or remove debris. FSA currently has $15.5 million available for counties that received a Major Disaster declaration.
- USDA's Risk Management Agency reminds producers faced with questions on prevented planting, replant, or crop losses to contact their crop insurance agent for more information. USDA encourages all farmers and ranchers to contact their crop insurance companies and local USDA Farm Service Agency Service Centers, as applicable, to report damages to crops or livestock loss. More information about federal crop insurance may be found at www.rma.usda.gov. Additional resources to help farmers and ranchers deal with flooding and other damage may be found at www.usda.gov/disaster.