Online damage assessment form speeds farm aid requests
CLEMSON — After the disaster comes the flood of paperwork.
To streamline the process for South Carolina farmers, a single damage assessment form has been posted to allow state and federal agencies fast access to on-site data that can be used in disaster aid and other important services.
“It’s important that we know what problems we face so that resources can be allocated to meet the need,” said Charlotte Krugler, Clemson Livestock-Poultry Health (LPH) emergency preparedness veterinarian. “The state also needs damage estimates as it submits its federal disaster applications.”
The updated agricultural damage assessment form — dubbed Emergency Support Function 17 — is posted online.
Clemson also has set up a dedicated email address to receive the forms as they are filled out: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Clemson Extension agents are prepared to work with farmers who need help, said Clemson Extension Director Tom Dobbins.
“Our county agents have been working with and assisting farmers through many disasters and Hurricane Matthew will be no different,” Dobbins said. “Our agribusiness program team, led by Kathy Coleman and Nathan Smith, have been in contact with state Department of Agriculture, S.C. Farm Bureau, and the USDA Farm Service Agency to formulate a plan to help farmers with disaster relief. Our agents will be ready to assist our farmers in any role needed to ensure they receive the maximum disaster relief benefits.”
Clemson LPH personnel have been stationed in the S.C. Emergency Operations Center since its activation last week. The official agricultural damage assessment report form will be used to document losses to the emergency center.
Nathan Smith, a Clemson Extension Economist whose responsibilities include educating farmers in risk management and production economics, said damage assessment is the first step in helping farmers and agribusinesses recover from a natural disaster.
“Accurate assessments of damage are essential for such things as crop insurance and disaster aid,” Smith said. “We also encourage farmers to document damage by taking pictures before they repair or fix damage. That will help if they go to apply for aid or assistance from the Farm Service Agency and insurance claims.”
The first step in assessing damage, Krugler said, is for farmers to examine their property for hazards — especially before letting animals back out onto pastures.
“Hazards include damaged fences and waste systems, downed power lines, flooded areas, gas and utility leaks and debris,” she said. “You also need to be aware of strange animals — either domesticated or wildlife — found on your property and report them so they can be checked or scanned for identification and returned to their owners.”
Krugler said animals should be checked for injuries, including feet and skin in animals that have had prolonged exposure to flooded areas, and for wire or string wrapped around limbs that may not be immediately obvious. If animals have been off regular feeding schedules, they should be returned to regular diets slowly. Proportion access to water gradually, especially to pigs: Offer small amounts initially to avoid salt poisoning.
Expect that animals may be temporarily disoriented, nervous, and even fractious following an emergency event, since the character, feel, smell, look and layout of their surroundings has changed. Animals that don’t normally act up may fight to re-establish hierarchy and may need to be separated. As much as possible, use familiar personnel and protocols to assist them to re-acclimate.