Agriculture Commissioner Continues Tour of Areas Affected by Gustav

BATON ROUGE -- Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain, D.V.M., continued his tour of the state's storm-stricken agricultural areas and visited with concerned farmers and other agribusiness leaders on Thursday, Sept. 11, in the Pointe Coupee Parish community of Batchelor.

Strain was there to remind farmers of the Sept. 16 deadline to sign up for the Farm Service Agency crop insurance program, the Non-Insured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) and to register with FEMA at 1-800-621-3362 (FEMA) for disaster assistance.

At the event, nearly 100 pickup trucks and a saddled horse filled the parking lot of the Pointe Coupee Farmers Co-op on La. Hwy. 1.

Nearby, the ruined storage tower of the Pointe Coupee Farmers Elevator lay crumbled on the ground after Hurricane Gustav. More than 30,000 bushels of harvested corn poured into the street and covered the elevator's loading ramps. The corn is unsalvageable.

Strain told the farmers he was well aware of the crop losses farmers will suffer and advised the gathered agribusiness professionals to stay in contact with their county agents, lenders, insurance agents and grain elevators and to document all of their Hurricane Gustav-related expenses.

"Write it all down," Strain said. "Keep track of everything, how much you bought and how much labor you hired."

Strain also told the group he believed crop insurance plans are deficient and don't offer sufficient coverage.

"Crop insurance costs are too high and the coverage is inadequate," Strain said. "We have to get direct payments in your hands. At the same time, we've got to work together to change the insurance plan."

Strain said he hoped the United States Department of Agriculture would not allow increased imports of sugar.

"I've been in contact with USDA Secretary Ed Schafer," Strain said. "I advised him if any additional foreign sugar is allowed to come in it could hurt us worse than the storm."

Strain ran down a quick disaster checklist for the producers which included the following points:

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Take photographs and/or video of damages, including downed fences.

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Apply for every program available through the local Farm Service Agency.

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If crops must be harvested, leave a 10-foot representative strip in each field to be inspected by an insurance adjuster.

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Do not destroy any damaged crops until it has been inspected by an insurance adjuster.

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Do not remove stumps from cut down trees until an FSA agent measures the diameter.

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Move fallen limbs from the fields but don't dispose until an FSA agent measures the diameter.

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Go to the FEMA website for more information: www.fema.gov.

Strain ended the meeting by reiterating that communication lines should remain open between the farmer and his business associates.

"Contact your bankers, creditors, elevators," Strain said. "Contact and talk with them. We have a lot of questions and we're working on getting the answers. If there's anything I can do for you, contact me."

For the latest information on Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, you can visit emergency.louisiana.gov or call the state's emergency hotline at 1-866-288-2484 to listen to a recorded message with the most up-to-date information.

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