Tips & Strategies During a disaster

For farmers and ranchers experiencing the effects of a natural disaster, below are some tips to position yourself to qualify for aid along with links to resources. For a list of Programs & Resources, click here.

Homeowner's Guide to Asbestos-  If a product is disturbed commercially (drilling or sanding) or naturally (earthquake or severe storm), it can release dangerous asbestos fibers. To learn more about asbestos and what you can do if you suspect any in your home, click here.

First, Document Everything!

  • Take pictures and record the damage you have sustained before starting to clean up anything. Cameras before chainsaws.
  • Buy a cheap notebook, if you can. Use it for keeping all notes in one place.
  • Write down everything, including:
    • what you do,
    • who you talk to,
    • what those people say,
    • if you talk on the phone, ask for a follow up email with notes about what was discussed and decided upon.
  • If you go to an office for an in-person meeting, go with more than one person and have one ask questions while the other takes notes.
  • Again, take pictures of the damage! It is especially important to take pictures and document before clean up and restoration has occurred.


  • The programs administered by USDA offices (FSA, NRCS, etc) are funded when the disaster declarations are made.
  • Farm Service Agency (FSA) will be the main office to contact. Click here for a map to find the office for your county (which might be in a different county).
  • The programs may not have money in them when you first talk to these offices. Sign up anyway! By signing up, you get yourself in line for when the money is available. If the FSA person says, "We don't have any money in that program," ask them if you can fill out the paperwork anyway.
  • And, be sure to document the conversation! Write down who you talked to and what they told you along with the date and the program you inquired about. Note also if you submitted paperwork for a particular program.

Sort Through Resources for What You Need


FEMA will be the place to go first for assistance. FEMA offers temporary housing and grants of up to $33,000 for certain disaster-related expenses, including repair or replacement of damaged housing and personal property for the most critical needs. Apply within 60 days of the county disaster declaration. 

Unemployment Funds:  You may be able to apply for Disaster Unemployment Assistance. If you have been unable to work – including farming – you may be eligible. More information from FEMA is posted here.  You can apply for Disaster Unemployment from Texas Workforce Commission, by clicking here.

Other options:

Small Business Administration (SBA) offers low-interest loans to cover the cost of repairing a home and repairing or replacing household contents damaged due to a disaster. Apply within 60 days of the county disaster declaration.

Farm Service Agency (FSA) Emergency Loans can be used to repair a damaged home and/or replace household contents. These Emergency Loans can also cover loss and damage to your farming operation. Apply within 8 months of the county disaster declaration.


If you have crop insurance, call or visit the insurance agent’s office as soon as possible to file your claim.

If you DON'T have crop insurance, there may be some other state and federal programs that will provide help. These are listed on a page here. Programs include the following:

  • For Damage to Equipment, Farm Structure, and Fencing: The Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) from FSA may be able to help. ECP provides cost-share assistance for the return of land into production. You may be able to get help for work you will do anyway. The program will cover anything that you do to get your land back to productivity, including clearing trees, repairing fences, cleaning out ditches, etc.  It can pay for both your time and the use of your own equipment.  
    • Details to know:
      • Unless it is an emergency, like clearing trees from a road to get feed to stranded cattle, the work has to be pre-authorized by the FSA
      • All work much be documented at the time the work is done.
      • The cost-share will look at cost estimates from third party vendors to estimate the costs, but those estimates can be used to set the value of the work even if done by the farmer and their staff.
      • Go to your FSA office to sign up. Even if you don't have a farm number, go anyway and keep after it.
  • For general farm loss, Emergency Loan (EM) from FSA may be what you need. Emergency loan funds may be used to 1) restore or replace essential property, 2) pay all or part of production costs associated with the disaster year, 3) pay essential family living expenses, 4) reorganize the farming operation and 5) refinance certain debts. So if you've lost crops and/or livestock, these loans may help. Crop loss needs to be at least 30% crop yield loss of at least one crop, and livestock loss needs to be physical loss as a result of the disaster. Apply for loans within 8 months from the date of the disaster declaration for your county
  • For Livestock loss, the FSA Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP): This program provides cash payments for livestock death losses in excess of normal mortality due to adverse weather. Eligible losses may include those determined by FSA to have been caused by hurricanes, floods, blizzards, disease, wildfires, extreme heat, and extreme cold. LIP indemnity payments will be 75 percent of the market value of the livestock on the day before the date of death of the livestock, as determined by FSA.
  • FSA Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees, and Farm-raised Fish (ELAP): This program provides financial assistance to eligible producers of livestock, honeybees, and farm-raised fish for losses due to disease, certain adverse weather events, or loss conditions, including blizzards and wildfires, as determined by disaster declaration for your county. ELAP assistance is provided for losses not covered by other disaster assistance programs authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill, such as losses not covered by the Livestock Indemnity Program.
  • FSA Tree Assistance Program (TAP): This program provides financial assistance to help replant or rehabilitate eligible trees, bushes, and vines damaged by natural disaster. The eligible trees, bushes, or vines must produce an annual crop for sale or qualify as commercial nursery plants (for example, ornamentals and Christmas trees).

For more a more detailed read of the above information, click here for What Help Is Available for What Types of Disaster Loss.  For detailed information from USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA), click here.

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