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Strain, USDA officials meet with ag producers, civic leaders in Vidalia
May 20, 2011
Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain, D.V.M., met with farmers and ranchers atop the levee in Vidalia May 20 and urged them to remain in close contact with their local Farm Service Agency office, financial advisors, crop insurance representatives and local government leaders as Mississippi River floodwaters rise and recede
“Contact your local FSA office. Contact your insurers. Keep good records, and when you need us, you call us,” Strain said. “We are going to be here to help.”
The meeting was held atop the levee behind the Vidalia Riverfront, a district that includes a hospital, medical center, hotel and conference center. The structures, built on the batture between the levee and the river, are being temporarily protected from the Mississippi River by dams of Hesco baskets, electric and diesel pumps and manpower.
Strain and USDA undersecretaries Dallas Tonsager and Mike Scuse surveyed the Mississippi River flooding from the air above Butte La Rose, the Morganza Spillway and Vicksburg before landing in Natchez and driving across the river to meet with farmers who gathered there to talk with them.
Clarence Hawkins, state director for the USDA Rural Development office conducted the meeting. Willie Cooper, state director of the USDA Farm Service Agency, also addressed the group.
Strain reiterated that agricultural producers in the Morganza Spillway will be eligible for payments for their losses provided they had purchased crop insurance.
“Colonel Ed Fleming of the Corps of Engineers told us that the flooding in the spillway would be inevitable. We asked him to put that in writing and he did,” Strain said. “The USDA needed that distinction to be able to say that the flooding of the Morganza Spillway was a natural disaster.”
Scuse advised cattle owners who had to move their cattle from flooded areas to meet with their local Farm Service Agency office.
“We’re advising you to go to your local FSA office with your records as soon as you can,” Scuse said. “Procedures have changed since the 2000 Farm Bill because we have new programs like the Livestock Indemnity Program and the Emergency Livestock Assistance Program. These programs did not exist before.”
Scuse, a former state secretary of agriculture and farmer, said he had faced similar problems when he was farming.
“I’ve had to sit across from a banker before and tell him I could not meet my obligations,” Scuse said. “I know what you’re facing.”
Strain said not all agricultural contingencies will be covered.
“We’re going to try to cover as many things as we can,” Strain said. “Then we’ll try to develop some mechanism to help with those uninsured losses.”
Cooper said the Emergency Watershed Protection Program through the Natural Resources Conservation Service can help farmers remove debris and rehabilitate their fields after flood waters recede.
“Take photographs of damage to your fields,” Cooper said. “Try to include a known landmark in your photos so anyone will be able to verify that your field was damaged.”
Strain also said there were some provisions in crop insurance policies dealing with feral hog damage to cropland but it is required that producers use reasonable methods to prevent hog encroachment.
Strain assured the producers that the LDAF is working closely with the governor’s office, the congressional delegation and the USDA to find ways to mitigate disaster expenses and losses.
“I’m grateful that these top USDA officials have come down here to visit with us and assure us that they are here to help,” Strain said.
For more information on the LDAF and flood preparations, visit www.LDAF.la.gov and click on the “Spring Flood 2011” link.