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Early preparation helps farmers, ranchers get ready for storm season

By BY ALLISON MILES - AMILES@VICAD.COM
May 23, 2012 at 12:23 a.m.

Where Mother Nature is concerned, sometimes things happen that can't be prevented, an area agriculture agent said. But, with hurricane season fast approaching, it's best to prepare.

Preparing a farm or ranch for storm season is like preparing a home, but on a larger level, said Peter McGuill, Texas AgriLife Extension Service agent for Wharton County.

"Instead of having your patio furniture secured so it doesn't go through windows, you need to tie your equipment down so it doesn't blow through your barn," he said.

He urged producers to secure equipment that could blow around and cause damage, and to take inventory of their animals, tools and other items. Most producers do a good job of keeping proper documentation, knowing what they have, and where it is, he added.

"It's just like a banker knowing how much money he has in the bank," McGuill said. "It's a pretty standard deal."

Having extra fuel on hand for pumps and other equipment also helps.

When it comes to livestock, he said to remember that animals need clean water, too.

An electric well won't work if the power goes out, McGuill explained, and it's important to have arrangements, such as portable water tanks, made ahead of time.

"Even windmills are no guarantee," he said. "They'll be the first thing to go. They'll blow down and fall apart. You'll be picking up pieces all over your property."

When disaster does strike, financial assistance is available through the United States Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency.

The Emergency Loan Program, Emergency Conservation Program, Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments program and others are available to those who qualify, according to the FSA website.

Those programs have helped producers through difficult times - the FSA paid nearly $48.6 million to livestock and row crop producers in 2011 - but their futures aren't set in stone, said Brenda Carlson, the FSA's regional public affairs specialist.

Legal authority expired Sept. 30 on the organization's assistance programs, and, without a new farm bill, it is unclear whether those programs will be available after 2012, Carlson explained.

"We certainly hope they will be," she said. "But, right now, we're sort of in limbo."


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