CHARLESTON – Commissioner of Agriculture Walt Helmick is urging farmers in central West Virginia to report any damage caused by recent rains to local USDA-Farm Service Agency offices. Hardest hit counties are thought to be Roane, Jackson and Calhoun, although weather-related damage can be reported whenever and wherever it occurs.
“It’s important for farmers to make a simple phone call and have any damage assessed, whether or not disaster assistance is likely or not,” said Helmick. “It ensures that agricultural losses will be included as part of the state’s overall damage assessment and documents them for long-term consideration.”
Numerous assistance programs with a variety of relief are available from the federal government. Some require formal disaster declarations while others do not. However, a declaration paves the way for more programs, and Congress often approves additional funding and additional programs based on declarations.
Locally elected county FSA committees oversee the local programs, implementation, and payments and must request specific disaster assistance programs, but the USDA County Emergency Boards are responsible for the actions and assessments leading to disaster declarations.
Likewise, there is a USDA State Emergency Board that works toward the same goal at the next level.
Some declarations are orchestrated by the USDA County Emergency Boards, passed upwards to the USDA State Emergency Board and then the information goes through the Agriculture Commissioner and the Governor.
If declared, certain programs automatically become available without needing a special request from the local COC. Some declarations may be done by the individual FSA State executive director.