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III. What To Do Just Before and Right After A Disaster (from our Guide on Getting Ready for the Big One) - for full guide, click here: Disaster Training Manual Updated 8-11

So, a natural disaster is imminent or has hit your farm.  It may be something small like an early freeze, or something big like a tornado or hurricane.

There are certain things you should do just before and right after the disaster in order to get your resources together, and lessen the damage.

1)       Make sure you have copies of any crop insurance or NAP policy, the names and phone numbers and policy numbers for all your farm, home and family insurance agents and policies, and your records!  (Scanning these records and sharing them by email with family members in another location is not a bad idea).

2)       Prepare your farm and buildings in a manner suitable for the particular disaster.  Put away machinery, and turn off power anywhere it will not be used during a storm.  Consider having a generator and make sure you have adequate fuel and a safe place to operate it.

3)       Clear waterways of any debris and secure anything that might damage buildings.  If you have crops or hay in the field that is near harvest, consider harvesting what you can if you face a predictable disaster.

4)       Prepare to make insurance claims.  Take pictures to document your production before the storm comes.  You will also need to show your planting records, seed purchases, and other evidence including loan documents and your farm and home plan to show what you planted, so be sure to retain these records. You also need schedule F of your tax return and other sales records to document the value of your crops.

5)       Keep an inventory (photos, videos, and lists) of your house, buildings, vehicles, and valuable equipment and farm BEFORE the disaster occurs.  These are very helpful in documenting your claims for insurance purposes.  If possible, keep this on a computer and be sure copies are maintained away from your home and farm.

6)       Have a plan in place with your family, friends, and other farmers in the area.  Remember the farmer(s) is/are the most important asset on your farm.  Your plan should include the best ways to reach people (i.e. a phone tree) in order to warn each other of a disaster, or provide help to each other.

7)       Keep your cell phone and other equipment fully charged.  Print or copy important phone numbers of family and other key contacts on a sheet of paper that you carry with you.  Remember your cell phone can run out of power and leave you without important contact information.

8)       Have a plan in place for the care of your animals!  The plan should include options to care for animals if you lose electrical power or access to water.

9)       You must record the evidence of the destruction to your property (via photos or video).  Make sure everyone in your community knows how to do this.  It is crucial because Congress often does not approve disaster aid until long after the disaster – so documentation is essential.

10)   DO NOT CLEAN UP UNTIL AFTER YOU CONTACT YOUR INSURER AND HAVE A DAMAGE APPRAISAL.  Then develop a rapid response team in order to help each other clean up the damage, and keep clear records of the time spent on this activity.  Some time and costs may be eligible for reimbursement from the Emergency Conservation Program.

11)    Emergency Conservation Program: The FSA’s Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) provides emergency funding and technical assistance for farmers and ranchers to rehabilitate farmland damaged by natural disasters, and for carrying out emergency water conservation measures in periods of severe droughts.  County FSA committees determine land eligibility based on on-site inspections of damage, taking into account the type and extent of damage.  ECP program participants receive cost-share assistance of up to 75 percent of the cost to implement approved emergency conservation practices.  Producers should check with their local county FSA offices regarding ECP sign-up periods, which are set by county FSA committees.  For more information on USDA Disaster Programs, after the storm go to the FSA’s website at http://disaster.fsa.usda.gov

Here is one tool to try out with additional information:

Farm Emergency Plan Template (with thanks to the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture)




An emergency can strike your farm at any time. It is important to be prepared with a plan of action should the need arise. Part of that plan should include information to assist emergency responders and others if called upon should a disaster like a fire, flood or disease outbreak occur.  Your farm may present unique challenges in an emergency situation. Ensuring that public safety officials and emergency response planners in your community are aware of your specific needs will serve to reduce the impact of an emergency on you and your property.


The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural resources (MDAR), Division of Animal Health, has developed a template to assist you in creating a farm emergency plan.


Template Plans:

Welcome to our New Farm Bill Web Center:  Shaping & Using The Farm Bill
The Rural Coalition/Coalición Rural has worked to secure equity in US Farm Policy throughout its entire 30-year existence, most recently in the 2008 Farm Bill Debate. The Farm and Food Policy Diversity Initiative, formed in 2006 and coordinated by the Rural Coalition supported the efforts of its partners—each with many years of experience—to strengthen and diversify the content of farm bill. The final Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 included many substantive proposals the DI proposed to counteract lasting patterns of discrimination and spur new investments in this sector of producers.

But passing the legislation was only the first step.  With over $1 billion resource at stake for the producers, farmworkers and communities we together service, we have since been working in partnership to assure USDA fully implements all the new policies. “A Time to Change: The Report of the Assessment Conversations Team” (link back to our latest issues page) provides a comprehensive view of just how much needs to be done.

The new Rural Coalition Farm Bill Web Center is designed to engage all socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers and farmworkers in continued collaboration to assure that USDA agencies set in place changes that create new opportunities for American Indian, African-American, Latino, Asian-Pacific and other small farmers and that require USDA assure, track and document equitable access to all programs of the Department.   The Web Center also provides tools and resources to assure the producers we together serve have the resources they need to secure access to these new programs.