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Farmers may now sign up for USDA disaster assistance programs

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Farmers now may sign up for U.S. Department of Agriculture disaster assistance programs that were restored by the passage of the 2014 federal farm bill.

The sign-up period for programs, which started Tuesday at Farm Service Agency locations nationwide, comes after farmers waited about two and a half years with no assistance because congressional action was needed to restore funding, according to USDA Secretary Thomas J. Vilsack.

“We implemented these programs in record time and kept our commitment to begin sign-up today,” Mr. Vilsack said in a release. “To ensure enrollment goes as smoothly as possible, dedicated staff in over 2,000 Farm Service Agency offices across the country are doing everything necessary to help producers that have suffered through two and a half difficult years with no assistance because these programs were awaiting Congressional action.”

Depending on the size and type of farm or ranch operation, eligible producers may enroll in one of four programs administered by the Farm Service Agency. The Livestock Forage Disaster Program and Livestock Indemnity Program 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, including calendar years 2012, 2013 and 2014. The Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program provides emergency assistance to eligible producers of livestock, honeybees and farm-raised fish that have suffered losses because of disease, severe weather, blizzards and wildfires. Enrollment also is open for the Tree Assistance Program, which provides financial assistance to qualifying orchardists and nursery tree growers to replant or rehabilitate trees, bushes and vines damaged by natural disasters.

Farm Service Agency locations in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties are based at 21168 Route 232 in Watertown, 5274 Outer Stowe St. in Lowville and 1942 Old DeKalb Road in Canton, respectively.

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