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WASHINGTON, July 11, 2019 - The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reminds people in the forecast path of the major storm in the Gulf of Mexico to take steps now to protect the safety and health of their food, and farmers and ranchers about USDA resources available to help if their operations are affected by the storm.

“American farmers and ranchers can handle adversity, and USDA is here with resources so they don’t have to go it alone. We have USDA employees in every county in this nation, and our people can help with a variety of services that may be useful in natural disasters like this one," said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.

USDA encourages those in the path of the storm to take the following precautions to protect the safety of their food and animals.

Tips to protect food safety before flooding:

  • Drink only bottled water that has not come in contact with flood water. Discard any bottled water that may have come in contact with flood water.
  • Discard any food that is not in a waterproof container if there is any chance it may have come in contact with flood water. Food containers that are not waterproof include those with screw-caps, snap lids, pull tops, and crimped caps.
  • Discard wooden cutting boards, plastic utensils, baby bottle nipples, and pacifiers that may have come in contact with flood water.
  • Thoroughly wash all metal pans, ceramic dishes, and utensils that came in contact with flood water with hot soapy water. Sanitize by boiling them in clean water or by immersing them for 15 minutes in a solution of 1 tablespoon unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of drinking water.
  • Undamaged, commercially prepared foods in all-metal cans and retort pouches (for example, flexible, shelf-stable juice or seafood pouches) can be saved. Follow the "Steps to Salvage All-Metal Cans and Retort Pouches" in the publication A Consumer's Guide to Food Safety: Severe Storms and Hurricanes at go.usa.gov/xyXHa.

To help protect livestock that could be affected by flooding, USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has information for livestock producers and contract growers on its Protecting Livestock During a Disaster page.

USDA Helps Producers Weather Financial Impacts of Disasters:

When major disasters strike, USDA has an emergency loan program that provides eligible farmers low-interest loans to help them recover from production and physical losses. USDA’s emergency loan program is triggered when a natural disaster is designated by the Secretary of Agriculture or a natural disaster or emergency is declared by the President under the Stafford Act. USDA also offers additional programs tailored to the needs of specific agricultural sectors to help producers weather the financial impacts of major disasters and rebuild their operations.

Livestock owners and contract growers who experience above normal livestock deaths due to specific weather events, as well as to disease or animal attacks, may qualify for assistance under USDA’s Livestock Indemnity Program.

Livestock, honeybee and farm-raised fish producers who suffer animal, feed, grazing and associated transportation cost losses due to an extreme weather event may qualify for assistance through USDA’s Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program. This program can help compensate for losses due to disease (including cattle tick fever), and adverse weather or other conditions, such as blizzards and wildfires, that are not covered by certain other disaster programs. Producers who suffer losses to or are preventing from planting agricultural commodities not covered by federal crop insurance may be eligible for assistance under USDA's Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program if the losses were due to natural disasters.

USDA Helps Operations Recover After Disasters:

USDA also can provide financial resources through its Environmental Quality Incentives Program to help with immediate needs and long-term support to help recover from natural disasters and conserve water resources.

Farmers and ranchers needing to rehabilitate farmland damaged by natural disasters can apply for assistance through USDA’s Emergency Conservation Program. USDA also has assistance available for eligible private forest landowners who need to restore forestland damaged by natural disasters through the Emergency Forest Restoration Program.

Orchardists and nursery tree growers may be eligible for assistance through USDA’sTree Assistance Program to help replant or rehabilitate eligible trees, bushes, and vines damaged by natural disasters.

Visit USDA's disaster resources website to learn more about USDA disaster preparedness and response. For more information on USDA disaster assistance programs, please contact your local USDA Service Center. To find your local USDA Service Center go to offices.usda.gov.

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