(Albany) - Assemblymember Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes (D-Buffalo) Chair of the Assembly's Task Force on Food, Farm and Nutrition Policy supports Governor Cuomo's request to the federal government to help our State's flood stricken farmers. The Governor asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for waivers to allow farmers to retroactively enroll in federal flood insurance and crop insurance programs. If granted, the waivers would allow New York farmers to receive financial assistance to support rehabilitation and recovery efforts in Hurricane Irene's aftermath. Similar requests were made by federal, state, and local officials in the wake of other major disasters, including Hurricane Katrina. In addition, farmers who lost livestock may be eligible for federal assistance.
"All of New Yorkers who treasure our local food and farms are saddened by the impacts of Irene and later storms. Nearly 5,000 of New York's farmers were hit by "once in 500 year", unexpected floods that no one could have predicted. Most of these family farms do not have crop insurance and have lost everything they were growing at the height of the harvest season, as well as suffering crippling damage to their farm buildings, equipment and homes. Because they could not afford expensive crop insurance they cannot qualify for any federal disaster aid. They deserve the same help that farmers received in other parts of the country after similar disasters affected them," said Peoples-Stokes.
It appears that agricultural damage could be in the tens of millions of dollars and 140,000 acres of farm land may be lost. Most New York farmers are not eligible for federal disaster aid under USDA programs because they don't have crop insurance which is designed more for large scale commodity growers in the Midwest, South and West. New York's smaller family farms that grow fruit and vegetables could not afford the expensive crop insurance that is available to them especially since it may not provide much help when their crops are ruined. As a result, New York farmers do not qualify for most federal farm disaster aid. The waiver would permit farmers to receive up to $100,000 in federal aid, depending on the program, to rebuild their farms.
In addition to the potential help for crop farmers there is also assistance available for farmers who lost farm animals through the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP). For more information go to: http://www.fsa.usda.gov/FSA/newsReleases?area=newsroom&subject=landing&topic=pfs&newstype=prfactsheet&type=detail&item=pf_20110128_distr_en_lip.html. This federal program administered by USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA) provides benefits to livestock producers for livestock deaths in excess of normal mortality caused by adverse weather that occurred on or after Jan. 1, 2008, and before Oct. 1, 2011.
According to Peoples-Stokes, "Many of our dairy farms and livestock producers tragically lost dozens of animals in the floods. The farmers affected should apply as soon as possible for this federal livestock aid as the program is set to expire October 1st, 2011. We hope that these programs can save New York farms and get them back on their feet."