USDA Programs, Discretionary Funds Can Help Offset Losses from Recent Tornadoes, Severe Spring Storms
U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) today identified U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs that could help cattle producers, poultry growers, and private landowners who experienced losses from recent historic tornadoes and severe storms in Mississippi.
Hyde-Smith, a member of the Senate committees with authorizing and funding jurisdiction over USDA, confirmed that Mississippians who lost cattle, chickens, timber, or farm-related infrastructure are eligible for assistance offered by USDA to a number of USDA programs.
“Recent storms, including the terrible Easter Sunday tornadoes, devastated a number of agriculture producers and private landowners. I’ve witnessed the damage firsthand, from fields littered with dead cattle to valuable timber stands reduced to nothing,” Hyde-Smith said. “This damage adds to the hardships associated with COVID-19, low prices, trade disputes, among others.”
“Fortunately, help is available to Mississippians through USDA authorized and funded programs. While these programs cannot erase the damages caused by these severe storms, they might help people get back on track,” she said.
Damage assessments from the Easter Sunday tornadoes are ongoing, but early indications show significant damage to the Mississippi poultry industry. Initial reports show at least 90 poultry houses damaged or destroyed. Each house may cost $300,000 to $325,000 per house and raise about 25,000 chickens.
The Mississippi Forestry Commission determined the Easter storm damaged approximately 19,215 acres, of which 12,988 were forested acres on nonindustrial, private forestland. The commission projected a $14.9 million potential economic impact to forested acres in just eight counties: Covington, Jasper, Jefferson Davis, Jones, Lawrence, Marion, Smith, and Walthall.
Reports from cattle producers are revealing substantial losses due to death or injury, as well as damages to fencing and other farm infrastructure.
Hyde-Smith highlighted the following programs that could help storm-damaged agricultural sector in Mississippi:
- USDA Disaster Reference Guide – A comprehensive guide to USDA disaster resources for farmers, ranchers, and communities
- USDA Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) – Cattle producers and contract growers of poultry or swine who experienced losses due to livestock death or injury should be eligible.
- USDA Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP) – Offers assistance for damages not covered under LIP, such as feed losses.
- USDA Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) – Offers assistance to help farmers and ranchers rehabilitate storm-damaged, farm-related infrastructure, such as debris removal and fence restoration.
- USDA Emergency Forest Restoration Program (EFRP) – Offers assistance to private, nonindustrial landowners recover from damage to timber stands.
Hyde-Smith noted that the USDA disaster resources are separate from assistance offered from the Major Disaster Declaration approved by President Trump on April 16 to release FEMA and Small Business Administration assistance to Mississippi following the Easter Sunday storms.
The 2014 Farm Bill provided permanent authorization and mandatory funding for the LIP and ELAP programs. The ECP and EFRP have available resources from supplemental appropriations funding enacted in 2019.