Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns today announced a proposal to dedicate $800 million in hurricane recovery funds for agricultural and timber producers, rural low-income housing assistance, restoration of natural resources and national forests, commodity food assistance programs, and rebuilding of USDA facilities.

"The hurricanes dealt a blow to agricultural and timber producers in the Gulf region," said Johanns. "These funds will provide direct assistance to producers, as well as indirect aid through grants and loans. USDA is committed to assisting with long-term recovery in the region."

USDA is authorizing $250 million for crop disaster, livestock, dairy, tree and aquaculture assistance. These funds are authorized under Section 32 of the Agricultural Act of August 24, 1935, which allows the Secretary to restore producers' purchasing power. A distribution plan for the $250 million of Section 32 funds is still being finalized.

Additionally, $550 million in hurricane recovery aid is proposed through a reallocation of existing funds. These funds would go toward cost-share assistance for emergency cleanup of agricultural and timber lands as well as watersheds, rental and home repair assistance for low-income rural residents, the rebuilding of USDA research centers and relocation of USDA personnel. These funds would be distributed as follows:
     •      $160 million for the Farm Service Agency to provide cost-share assistance for emergency measures to clean-up and repair hurricane-related damage of agricultural lands;
     •      $200 million for the Natural Resources Conservation Service to provide cost-share assistance to retard runoff, prevent soil erosion, and repair watersheds;
     •      $50 million for a new forestry disaster assistance fund to provide cost-share grants to states to assist timber land owners with debris removal, timber salvage, wildfire mitigation, and wildlife habitat stabilization;
     •      $14 million for the Forest Service to repair roads, bridges and facilities on national forest lands in the affected regions;
     •      $37 million for the Rural Housing Service to provide housing repair grants and loans to low-income rural homeowners and to replenish rental assistance accounts drawn-down to provide temporary housing assistance immediately following the hurricane;
     •      $4 million for the Food and Nutrition Service to replace commodities that were in storage in the New Orleans area and destroyed during the hurricane;
     •      $15 million for the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) to cleanup and undertake salvaging efforts at the ARS facility in Poplarville, Mississippi, and the Southern Regional Research Center in New Orleans, Louisiana; and
     •      $70 million for the National Finance Center to pay salary and expenses associated with the temporary relocation of the Center.

More information about USDA's hurricane response is available http://www.usda.gov/.

USDA