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USDA helping out with Sandy recovery efforts

Agriculture Department personnel are helping people affected by Hurricane Sandy with everything from clearing downed trees from roads to providing food to helping local governments cope with abandoned pets, the agency said late Wednesday.

In addition to working in coordination with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the following USDA divisions are performing special tasks:

  • Forest Service: Dispatching six incident management teams and 11 wildfire suppression crews, a total of more than 250 personnel, to New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia in coordination with local emergency managers. These people help clear downed trees from roads, help FEMA provide water and other commodities, provide communications equipment and support to local emergency response agencies.
  • Rural Development: Asking all telecommunications, electric and water system borrowers in areas affected by Hurricane Sandy to assess damages and offer assistance. Also working with the National Rural Electric Cooperatives Association to determine how to help restore power, and working with the National Rural Water Association and 38 circuit riders funded through an existing USDA contract, to help assess water system outages and damages. Circuit riders in states that were not affected are traveling to help in recovery efforts. Rural Development has also updated its list of available housing units suitable for emergency shelter and has provided this information to FEMA.
  • Natural Resources Conservation Service: Advancing emergency watershed protection technical assistance funds to 10 states to help disaster recovery.
  • USDA Food and Nutrition Service: Offering food assistance to affected states once they assess their needs, and will provide support and technical assistance as needed. FNS may provide USDA foods to state agencies for distribution to shelters and other mass feeding sites or, in certain limited situations, for distribution directly to households in need. FNS may also authorize state agencies to issue Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) benefits.
  • Food Safety and Inspection Service: Monitoring the regulated meat, poultry, and processed egg product industry to ensure FSIS-regulated products are safe for consumers.
  • Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service: Deploying animal care experts to provide pet-liaison services to FEMA in Philadelphia, and a plant pest expert to the Massachusetts State Emergency Operations Center to provide 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 and the National Alliance of State Animal and Agriculture Emergency Programs, who are distributing supplies for companion animals at the State Fairgrounds in Syracuse, N.Y.
  • Farm Service Agency: Urging producers in need to contact their county or state USDA Service Center or Farm Service Agency office for assistance, and advising them to keep thorough records of all losses as well as 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 may be able to assist those who need to repair farmland or remove debris. FSA has $15.5 million available for counties that received a Major Disaster declaration.
  • Risk Management Agency: Reminding producers with questions on prevented planting, replant, or crop losses to contact their crop insurance agent for more information. Farmers and ranchers are urged to contact their crop insurance companies and local USDA Farm Service Agency Service Centers, as applicable, to report damages to crops or livestock loss.

Additional resources to help farmers and ranchers deal with flooding and other damage may be found at USDA Emergency Preparedness and Response.