More than a month after Hurricanes swept through Puerto Rico, the recovery is only getting underway. USDA announced that it will provide emergency assistance to dairy operators in the region.
In a statement announcing the program, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue noted that added USDA staff is being sent to the island and material assistance is being ramped up as well. "Dairy producers need help immediately, and the Trump Administration is providing it," he said.
Hurricanes Irma and Maria tore through the island in the past three months devastating the infrastructure and did a lot of damage to dairy farms too. Perdue noted that the Commodity Credit Corporation will provide up to $12 million to help operators in the country's 253 licensed dairy operations purchase feed for cattle.
This special initiative is only applicable to Puerto Rico and is called the Dairy Assistance Program for Puerto Rico. The program will be administered by the Farm Service Agency, which has offices and staff on the island.
Added Perdue: "Dairy operations face additional losses unless they have feed for their remaining cattle. This funding will enable them to get the help they need until the situation in Puerto Rico stabilizes."
Under the provisions of this latest announcement, dairy operators can apply to FSA to receive vounchers to purchase an estimated one-month supply of feed. The voucher amount is calculated based on 100% of estimated feed costs per cow for 30 days. There are an estimated 94,000 cows on the island.
The CCC Charter Act includes authority for the corporation to make available materials and facilities required in connection with the production and marketing of agricultural commodities (except tobacco). The DAP-PR is a one-time initiative, designed to quickly provide disaster relief to assist in the production and marketing of dairy in Puerto Rico.
FSA will issue vouchers to licensed dairy applicants who may exchange the vouchers for feed at local dealers. If funding remains available at the end of the application period, FSA may provide assistance for additional feed or fuel purchases to further support these dairy operations. All applications must be received no later than Dec. 1, 2017.
Puerto Rico is just starting to dig out from Maria, which did the greatest damage, compounding the "work" of Irma a few weeks before. Power and fresh water to the island remains a critical issue. This program aims to help dairy producers keep their cows alive and work toward rebuilding their businesses.