WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has designated 11 parishes as primary natural disaster areas due to losses caused by due to losses caused by severe storms and flooding that occurred from Aug. 11, 2016, through Aug. 31, 2016. Those parishes are Acadia, Ascension, Cameron, Evangeline, Iberia, Jefferson Davis, Lafayette, St. James, St. Landry, St. Martin and Vermilion.

“Our hearts go out to those Louisiana farmers and ranchers affected by recent natural disasters,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “President Obama and I are committed to ensuring that agriculture remains a bright spot in our nation’s economy by sustaining the successes of America’s farmers, ranchers, and rural communities through these difficult times. We’re also telling Louisiana producers that USDA stands with you and your communities when severe weather and natural disasters threaten to disrupt your livelihood.”

Farmers and ranchers in the following parishes also qualify for natural disaster assistance because their parishes are contagious. Those parishes are Allen, Assumption, Avoyelles, Beauregard, Calcasieu, East Baton Rouge, Iberville, Lafourche, Livingston, Pointe Coupee, Rapides, St. John the Baptist and St. Mary.

All parishes listed above were designated natural disaster areas on Sep. 21, making all qualified farm operators in the designated areas eligible for low interest emergency (EM) loans from USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA), provided eligibility requirements are met. Farmers in eligible parishes and counties have eight months from the date of the declaration to apply for loans to help cover part of their actual losses. FSA will consider each loan application on its own merits, taking into account the extent of losses, security available and repayment ability. FSA has a variety of programs, in addition to the EM loan program, to help eligible farmers recover from adversity.

Ascension Parish USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) Executive Director Jamie Rodriguez, announced that flooding has caused severe damage in the Ascension Parish area. Farms and ranches suffering severe damage may be eligible for assistance under the Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) administered by the Ascension Parish Farm Service Agency (FSA) County Office if the damage will be so costly to rehabilitate that Federal assistance is or will be needed to return the land to productive agricultural use; is unusual and is not the type that would recur frequently in the same area; affect the productive capacity of the farmland; will impair or endanger the land.

A producer qualifying for ECP assistance may receive cost-share levels not to exceed 75 percent of the eligible cost of restoration measures. No producer is eligible for more than $200,000 cost sharing per natural disaster occurrence. The following types of measures may be eligible - removing debris from farmland; grading, shaping or re-leveling severely damaged farmland; restoring permanent fences.

Producers who have suffered a loss from a natural disaster may contact the local FSA County Office and request assistance from Sept. 1, 2016 to Oct. 30, 2016.

To be eligible for assistance, practices must not be started until all of the following are met - an application for cost-share assistance has been filed; the local FSA County Committee (COC) or its representative has conducted an onsite inspection of the damaged area; the Agency responsible for technical assistance, such as the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), has made a needs determination, which may include cubic yards of earthmoving, etc., required for rehabilitation.