Sign-Up Begins For USDA Disaster Assistance Programs - WBOY.com: Clarksburg, Morgantown: News, Sports, Weather

Sign-Up Begins For USDA Disaster Assistance Programs

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MARION COUNTY - West Virginia has been through its fair share of disasters in the past couple of years.

The derecho or the heavy snowfall of last winter affected thousands of people, especially farmers.

"People that live in the city and the small lots, you get the brush and debris off your branches. If you can just imagine that over 25 lots, that's what you tend to deal with," said Ben Smith, farmer.

President Barack Obama signed the Agricultural Act of 2014, or the 2014 Farm Bill on February 7. Farmers are greatly benefiting from his signature.

"It's just those things that release the burden a little bit on the cost share programs," Smith said.

Beginning April 15, eligible farmers could start signing up for the U.S. Department of Agriculture disaster assistance programs.

Payments will be awarded to farmers for disaster situations dating back to 2011.

"If they incurred loss, it goes back to 2011. During that time, if they had extra loss over their normal operating losses, they need to come into one of our FSA offices throughout the state of West Virginia and apply for assistance," said Rick Snuffer, WV State Executive Director for Farm Service Agency.

Depending on the size and type of farm or operation, eligible producers can enroll in one of four programs.

This includes Livestock Forage Disaster Program and the Livestock Indemnity Program. These provide payments to eligible producers for livestock deaths and grazing losses that have occurred since the expiration of the livestock disaster assistance programs in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014.

The Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program provided emergency assistance to eligible producers of livestock, honeybees, and farm-raised fish that have suffered losses because of disease, severe weather, blizzards, and wildfires.

"As long as they have proof. They can have proof from a neighbor that 'I lost ten cow due to lightning strike' or something like that. We will definitely look at that loss and you'll be able to receive payment for that," Snuffer said.

The Tree Assistance Program also began on April 15. It provides financial assistance to qualifying orchardists and nursery tree growers to replant or rehabilitate trees, bushes, and vines destroyed by natural disasters.

There was zero government assistance the past two and a half years while Congress and President Obama worked on a deal.

Smith said all farmers should take advantage of the program to cover their losses.

"That will help you do those extra cost things that you don't budget into your yearly finances," he said.

You can contact your local FSA office for more information.