PUNA, Hawaii – The United States Department of Agriculture has designated the Big Island as a primary natural disaster area due to damages and losses caused by wind, rain, and flooding from Hurricane / Tropical Storm Iselle.
Papaya and anthurium industries suffered heavy losses. The USDA designation allows those farms to be considered for certain assistance from the Farm Service Agency, provided eligibility requirements are met. “This assistance includes FSA emergency loans,” read a media release from the office of U.S. Senator Brian Schatz. “Farmers in eligible counties have 8 months from the date of a Secretarial disaster declaration to apply for emergency loans. FSA considers each emergency loan application on its own merits, taking into account the extent of production losses on the farm, and the security and repayment ability of the operator. So far, FSA has received over 100 inquiries for assistance from producers in Hawaii County.”
Immediately following the storm, we spoke to farmer and State Ag Board member Richard Ha, who gave an update on the impact the August 7 storm had on island agriculture.
The farmers made a good case for themselves, because the USDA eventually issued the disaster designation.
Our hearts go out to those Hawaii farmers and ranchers affected by recent natural disasters. 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 Hawaii producers that USDA stands with you and your communities when severe weather and natural disasters threaten to disrupt your livelihood.”Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on September 3, 2014
Additional programs available to assist farmers and ranchers include the Emergency Conservation Program, The Livestock Forage Disaster Program, the Livestock Indemnity Program, the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program, and the Tree Assistance Program. Interested farmers may contact their local USDA Service Centers for further information on eligibility requirements and application procedures for these and other programs, USDA reports.
Many farmers in Puna are still recovering after suffering devastating crop loss due to Tropical Storm Iselle and they need our help. I thank USDA Secretary Thomas Vilsack for reviewing the Loss Assessment Reports and for issuing a Secretarial natural disaster designation for Hawai‘i County. Support from the USDA will help ensure that our farmers in Hawai‘i County will receive the assistance they need.”Senator Brian Schatz, Sept. 4, 2014
Hawaii Island failed to convince Federal Emergency Management Agency in a similar request. Hawaii’s request for a major disaster declaration was denied by FEMA. The magnitude of Iselle’s impact did not meet presidential disaster declaration criteria, Administrator W. Craig Fugate said, and is “not beyond the capabilities of the state, affected local governments, and voluntary agencies.”