Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Helping Farmers Rebuild: An Update on Farm Aid's Response to Disasters

JoelSo far this spring the Farm Aid Family Farm Disaster Fund has raised over $18,000, thanks to people just like you. As of next week, we will have sent out almost every penny of that total to cooperating “on-the-ground” farm organizations with whom we work to see that the disaster funds and relief supplies go directly to farms, ranches, and rural families in some of the worst-hit areas around the country. Here’s a re-cap of our disaster grants so far this year.

Many of you responded immediately to our call to help rural families in Alabama after multiple lethal tornadoes tore up big chunks of that state in April. Though national coverage understandably focused on the devastation in the city of Tuscaloosa, we knew that rural swaths of the state were also hard hit and desperately needed assistance. Our longtime ally, the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund, went to work immediately to transform their Epes, Alabama, farmer training center into a tornado relief staging area. Farm Aid pitched in with a $5,000 disaster grant to help funnel donated relief supplies of all kinds (non-perishable food, baby food, diapers, toiletries, towels, linens, building supplies, generators, etc.) to rural families in desperate need. Federation staff and many volunteers have been working non-stop on this effort for weeks now. Here is a report on their efforts from late May.

Up in the rural northeast corner of the United States, away from the national spotlight, severe storms led to flooding of many farms in the state of Vermont. In response, Farm Aid granted $3,500 in disaster funds to another longtime ally, Rural Vermont. Rural Vermont is now busy doing outreach to and accepting applications from affected farms most in need, and every cent of that grant will soon be in farmers’ hands. Currently, the lead story on Rural Vermont’s homepage describes the effort and includes a link through which farms may apply for assistance. If you know of farms flooded in Vermont, please send them this link.

Out West, record snowmelt in the Rockies and a very wet spring across the northern Plains have combined to create severe flooding throughout the huge Missouri River watershed, saturating much of region and leading to both urban and rural flooding in many places: Minot, Fargo, Omaha, to name the places most in the news, but also Devil’s Lake, South Dakota, Hamburg, Iowa, and many other less-populated, farm-heavy rural areas. Farm Aid is set to send $9,500 in disaster funds to yet another cooperating partner, the Center for Rural Affairs in Lyons, Nebraska, for dispersal directly to farms and ranches in the region.

Each of these three cooperating organizations is part of our nationwide Farmer Resource Network, and, thankfully, they go to work overtime when we ask for help in getting direct disaster assistance to farm and ranch families in their areas. We know, of course, that there is much more to come: levee breaks and continued flooding along the Missouri, Mississippi, and other rivers; severe drought across most of Texas and surrounding states; hurricane season throughout the Gulf of Mexico; pockets of severe drought, drenching rain, or tornado-spawning storms in many other places across the country. Even as we are busy preparing for Farm Aid 2011 in Kansas City, we will continue our disaster watch and send help to America’s farmers and ranchers whenever and wherever we can. As always, everything that we do to help ultimately depends on you, and we will see to it that your donations to our Family Farm Disaster Fund go to farmers most in need.

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