By Dr. Michael Payne, UC Davis, School of Vet. Medicine; Director, CDQAP

Producers impacted by historic storms are still struggling to  recover, even as they face the continued threat of flooding from spring snow melt. On April 11, USDA and CDFA delivered a webinar summarizing assistance programs that might benefit farmers and their employees. Producers who were unable to attend can view a recording of the presentations and the subsequent Q&A webinar. USDA disaster assistance programs, however, are numerous and complex. Two resources available which can help guide producers are the online Disaster Assistance Discovery Tool and the Disaster Assistance-at-a-Glance fact sheet.

The most efficient path to assistance, however, is contacting one of USDA’s local offices. The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Farm Services Agency (FSA) and Rural Development (RD) are USDA sister-agencies, and are frequently co-located in the same service centers. Contact and local address information for the various USDA agencies can be found using the USDA’s service center locator. The agencies can assist producers via in-person meetings, phone, or email. Record keeping for the system (the USDA Farm  Number) is typically managed by FSA, so producers may wish to make that agency their first stop.

Here are highlights from USDA’s webinar and other sources:

Feed Losses – According to the April 20 Question & Answer webinar recording, there are no USDA programs currently available to assist with losses of stored feed.

Restoring Flood-Damaged Land & Fences – USDA’s Farm Services Agency (FSA) has extended the deadline for

applications to its Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) to October 13, 2023. ECP provides financial assistance to help restore farmland to pre-disaster conditions. Eligible lands include commercial farming, ranching, and orchard operations. Approved practices include debris removal, grading and leveling,

repair or replacement of permanent fencing, and restoration of conservation structures. Payments are limited to $500,000 per person or legal entity per disaster. This program is popular with dairy farmers because it is one of the few FSA programs that does not have an individual or company Annual Gross Income (AGI) cap for applicants. See below.

Animal Losses & Forced Culling – FSA’s Livestock Indemnity Program, LIP, provides assistance for excessive mortalities or reduced sale price due to disaster-related injury. Payments are limited to 75 percent of the market value of the livestock as determined by USDA. Payments listed for 2022 are $1,020 for adult dairy cows and between $255 and $835 for non-adult dairy cattle. Importantly, producers must file a notice of loss within 30 days of death or when the injury becomes apparent. As with most USDA disaster assistance programs, the individual or entity applicant cannot have an average Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) that exceeds $900,000. Whether or not a company or producer’s personal income exceeds that cap is best explored by meeting with FSA directly.

Loss of Grazing Forage – Producers who incorporate grazing and experienced grazing losses or stored feed should contact their local FSA office and inquire about its Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish (ELAP) program. Dairies whose cows graze for only a portion of their time may still qualify. As with most USDA disaster assistance programs, the individual or entity applicant cannot have an average Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) that exceeds $900,000.

Tree Replacement – Even for trees not uprooted by floodwaters, orchards flooded for more than 5 to 10 days may experience tree loss, depending on the state of dormancy. Dairy producers who have tree crops damaged by flooding should consider FSA’s Tree Assistance Program. TAP may pay up to 65 percent of the cost of replanting for losses in excess of normal mortality, defined by USDA as 18 percent. Acreage is limited to 1,000 acres and the company’s gross income cannot exceed $900,000.

Application deadlines are 90 days from the event, or when tree loss becomes apparent.

Future Crop Insurance – Producers who anticipate future crop losses due to flooding in late 2023 or 2024 could consider the FSA’s Non-insured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP). The program is complex but specifically includes crops grown for livestock consumption. Application closing dates vary by crop. Producers should contact a USDA crop insurance agent for questions regarding insurability of a crop in their county. As with many USDA programs, an individual’s or entity’s average AGI cannot exceed $900,000.

Low Interest Loans – FSA offers emergency low-interest farm loans in disaster-declared areas for farmers who have at least a 30 percent loss in revenue and are unable to obtain credit through normal channels. The low-cost loans can be used to restore or replace essential property, pay all or part of disaster-associated production losses and refinance certain debts. Applications for these loans must be made within 8 months of the disaster declaration.

EQIP Funding – As most producers are aware, the flagship program for the USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service,

NRCS, is its Environmental Quality Incentives Program. While EQIP routinely provides funding to promote adaptation of conservation practices on the farm, the program does offer assistance during disasters as well. EQIP projects which are

currently under development, but were destroyed by natural disaster, may have the existing contract modified for reapplication. Projects which were already completed but destroyed may similarly be refinanced. Lastly, financial assistance for completely new projects, tailored to a specific type of disaster, may be available. Typically, application must be made within 60 days of the disaster, but the required field visit might be delayed until floodwaters recede. To determine availability of funding, producers should contact NRCS directly.

Employee Housing – USDA’s Rural Development agency has a wide variety of programs, some of which might be useful to employees living off the farm. Grants and low-cost loans can be used to repair floors, roofs, wells, or septic systems. While eligibility is usually limited to applicants over 62 years of age, waivers for the age limit may be granted. If vacant USDA multi- family units are available in the affected area, the agency can offer priority housing for displaced households. For employees forced to relocate, direct home loans can be made to buy or build affordable housing. A guide to Rural Development’s Disaster Resources can be found here.

Disaster Nutrition Assistance for Employees – Some dairy employees’ income may have been disrupted during the disaster. USDA recently announced that California residents in seven counties could be eligible for USDA’s Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP). Employees who could not get to work, whose home or workplace was damaged or had to evacuate due to flooding may be available for supplemental nutritional assistance. This is a one-time payment from USDA, and is only applicable to income losses that occurred from the period of February 21 to March 22. Deadlines for  application are tight and employees should fill out an online application no later than April 25. Once the application is made, employees can follow up with a call to CalFresh at 1-800-540-6880 (option #1).

Other CDQAP Flooding Links: