This document was printed from
florida-agriculture.com
the web site of the
Division of Marketing and Development
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
Mayo Building, M-9
407 South Calhoun Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0800

August 23, 2004

Veneman, Bronson Tour Agriculture Areas Hit By Hurricane Charley; USDA Provides Assistance

Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman today surveyed damage in the agricultural areas in Florida hardest hit by Hurricane Charley and outlined actions being taken by USDA agencies to provide immediate assistance.  Veneman was accompanied by Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Agriculture Commis s ioner Charles H. Bronson during visi ts to several sites illustrating the wides pread damage suffered by one of the State’s major industries. She also also announced the availability of $5 million in additional USDA funds authorized to purchase a 10-day supply of additional baby foods and formula, and other food commodities to meet the continuing needs of hurricane victims.  The funds are being provided under Section 32 authority.

“We are working aggressively to meet the President’s directive to provide all available resource s to assist Florida ’s recovery from Hurricane Charley. The $5 million will be used to purchase at least a 10-day supply of food for 6,000 infants and other foods to meet victim’s needs,” Veneman said.  “ All USDA employees are hard at work in the many recovery efforts now underway.  We are trying to provide immediate assistance where most needed and then to fully and accurately assess the damage caused by the storm, which likely will take several weeks.” 

President Bush has designated 25 Florida counties as disaster areas, making those and 20 contiguous counties eligible for assistance from USDA.  Thirteen counties incurred the most substantial agricultural losses – for citrus, citrus trees, nursery, vegetables and other crops.  Losses also extend to grass, dairy, timber, blueberries, seed and hay, clam ponds and beehives .  In addition, miles of fences are down, and damage includes fallen trees, debris in fields, washed out and blocked culverts and standing water , all of which will interfere with agricultural operations. 

USDA continues to provide food and logistical assistance to residents of Florida and is helping to coordinate recovery assistance to producers and consumers.

  • USDA assistance includes 418,000 pounds of food commodities provided through USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service for distribution in the affected area.  The donated food includes fruits, vegetables, meat, grain products, peanut butter and dairy products. 
  • For infants, 480,000 bottles of ready-to-feed formula, 150,000 jars of baby food and 7,000 boxes of rice cereal have been provided to date , in addition to the . T he additional $5 million in new funding will be used to for purchase at least a 10-day supply of baby foods and formula for 6,000 infants and other food commodities.  [Julie--Is this sentence repetitive? .
  • Over $23.7 million dollars in replacement food stamp benefits have been issued to 135,000 families. 
  • To ensure school meals can be provided as soon as schools open, waivers have been granted to allow free meal service regardless of eligibility for 45 days after classes resume.
  • Forty seven USDA-sponsored multi-family housing units have been damaged, displacing 288 families.  USDA has made 142 vacant housing units available and is helping families contact property managers directly for additional units.  Several single-family customers also were affected and USDA is working with them to help ensure continued ability to meet mortgage payments.  USDA’s Rural Development also is helping housing customers file timely insurance claims.  
  • USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has provided information to help keep food safe during power outages.  It is available at local Red Cross and FEMA sites and also may be accessed at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/News_&_Events/NR_081204_01/index.asp or by calling the toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854); for the hearing-impaired (TTY) 1-800-256-7072.
  • A USDA Forest Service incident management team is on the ground help ing manage a Federal Emergency Management Agency mobilization center and employees are helping staff several base camps and a disaster field office.  Forest Service assistance includes shower units and meals for 500 people .   
  • USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has doubled the number of inspectors at the juice plant in Arcadia which lost electric power to ensure that products can be shipped to other locations minimizing any economic losses.  AMS also is assisting with cleanup and business-restoration efforts at plants forced to shut down. 
  • USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) personnel will be are working closely with state and industry officials to monitor potential livestock and plant disease conditions to help avoid potential outbreaks. APHIS also will be monitoring citrus canker for potential spread .
  • USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has provided information to help keep food safe during power outages.  It is available at local Red Cross and FEMA sites and also may be accessed at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/News_&_Events/NR_081204_01/index.asp or by calling the toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854); for the hearing-impaired (TTY) 1-800-256-7072.

USDA’s Florida State Emergency Board is continuing to gather agricultural damage information.  State emergency boards , composed of local representatives from nine 10 USDA agencies , are responsible for assessing disaster-related agricultural damage.  To improve the accuracy and comprehensiveness of the data and loss estimates, m More refined Disaster Assessment Reports are currently being prepared .  t o improve the accuracy and comprehensiveness of the data and loss estimates.

USDA statistics indicate that the region of Florida that lay in Hurricane Charley’s path accounts for about one-third of the state’s citrus industry, one-third of the nursery industry and more than 60 percent of the cattle industry.

  • USDA’s Farm Service Agency personnel are in the field now accepting ready to accept applications for the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP), Emergency Loan Assistance (EM), and the Emergency Conservation Program. NAP can provide financial assistance to producers of non-insurable crops; low-interest loans are available to producers in counties designated as primary disaster areas as well as in contiguous counties; and ECP helps with technical assistance to rehabilitate damaged farmland.
  • USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service has made $500,000 in Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) funds available along with $100,000 in Technical Assistance in the affected area. EWP funding is available to help with such things as debris removal from stream channels and reshaping and protecting eroded stream banks.  
  • For those commodities and crops covered by crop insurance, USDA’s Risk Management Agency is working with adjusters to expedite claims processing.  Some $1.4 billion in federal crop insurance is in force in the affected counties.  For specific claim s information, farmers should contact their crop insurance agents. 

Farmers are encouraged to contact their local USDA Service Center for additional information on assistance available. Disaster assistance information also is available at http://disaster.usda.gov/.

For more information:
Julie Quick
(202) 720-4623

Ed Loyd
(202) 720-4623