Washington, September 29, 2022 Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack directed the USDA to assist with recovery efforts for farmers, ranchers, and residents affected by Hurricane Fiona. USDA staff in offices across the country are prepared to respond with a variety of program flexibility and other assistance to producers and communities in need.
Hurricane Fiona caused widespread impacts along its path, particularly in Puerto Rico, which experienced the worst flooding since Hurricane Maria in 2017, and island-wide power outages, which persisted in many areas.
“Our thoughts are with all the people affected by this terrible storm, especially in Puerto Rico, which has come so far in recovery from Hurricane Maria,” Minister Vilsack said. “I want everyone to know that the USDA is ready to provide all the resources available to us to help those in need.”
Food Safety Guidelines:
The US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) helps affected residents take steps to reduce their risk of foodborne illness when they return home after bad weather and flooding.
- During a power outage, the refrigerator will keep food at a safe temperature (below 40 degrees Fahrenheit) for up to 4 hours. A full freezer will maintain a safe temperature for about 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full). Dispose of any perishable food items in the refrigerator and freezer after these time frames.
- Drink only bottled water that has not come into contact with flood water. Screw covers are not waterproof, so dispose of any bottled water that may have come into contact with flood water. If you don’t have bottled water, learn how to safely boil or disinfect water in FSIS Consumer Guide to Food Safety: Severe Storms and Hurricanes Webpage.
- Throw away any food or drink that is not in a waterproof container if there is any chance it has come in contact with flood water. Containers with screw lids, snap lids, pull tops, and crimped lids are not waterproof.
- Undamaged, commercially prepared foods can be kept in all-metal cans and retort pouches such as pouches or seafood pouches, following the steps in FSIS Consumer Guide to Food Safety: Severe Storms and Hurricanes Webpage.
- Thoroughly wash all metal utensils, utensils, and ceramic dishes that have come into contact with flood waters in hot, soapy water. Rinse and sterilize by boiling in clean water or submerging for 15 minutes in a solution of 1 tablespoon unscented liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of drinking water.
- Dispose of wooden cutting boards, plastic utensils, bottle nipples and pacifiers that may have come into contact with flood water – they cannot be saved after contact with flood water.
- For questions about food safety, call the Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-674-6854, Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET (English or Spanish), email MPHotline@usda.gov or live chat on me Ask the USDA.
Disaster assistance for agricultural operations:
The USDA offers a full suite of disaster assistance programs to help producers recover after disasters.
Producers of livestock and perennial crops often have limited risk management options available, but there are many disaster programs for them. Major programs offered by the US Department of Agriculture’s Farm Services Agency (FSA) include:
It is also critical that producers keep accurate records to document damage or loss and report losses to your local USDA service center as soon as possible.
Additionally, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) can provide financial resources through it Environmental Quality Incentive Program To help meet immediate needs and long-term support to help recover from natural disasters and conserve water resources. The USDA can also assist local government sponsors with the cost of recovery efforts such as debris removal and stream bank stabilization to address natural resource concerns and risks by Emergency Watershed Protection Program.
On the farmers’ website Disaster Assistance Discovery ToolAnd the Disaster glimpse fact sheet (PDF, 1.4MB) and farm loan finder It can assist producers and landowners in defining the program or loan options. For assistance with a crop insurance claim, producers and landowners should contact them Crop Insurance Agent. For FSA and NRCS programs, they must contact the local USDA Service Center.
USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) Already providing assistance to those affected communities In Puerto Rico by family distribution USDA FoodFNS, which provides 100% nutritious, high-quality food grown and produced on farms in the United States, stands ready to work with FEMA and state and local authorities, to provide more Emergency food assistance for those in need.
The USDA touches the lives of all Americans every day in many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris administration, the USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy, and nutritious food in all communities, and building new markets and streams of income. For farmers and producers using climate-smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across management by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit www.usda.gov.
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