5 Tips to Keep Your Farm Operating in a Disaster

As Hurricane Florence moves toward the East Coast, farmers are racing to prepare farms and livestock for the storm. ( Farm Journal )

All farmers need to know what, where and how they will keep the farm operation going during a disaster. Whether it’s wildfire, hurricane, flood or blizzard, there are planning resources to make a stressful time easier to manage.

1. Do you have an Emergency Action Plan (EAP)?

Every farm needs one, but it’s not always written down or updated with the most current information.

Hog farmers should have an EAP as part of the Pork Quality Assurance assessment. One should be done for the overall operation and a separate assessment for each production site.

Carefully plan for possible emergency scenarios, such as natural disasters, staff changes, disease outbreaks and market interruptions. Perform routine maintenance and training for employees to be to respond quickly and efficiently.

To comply with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), employer must have printed copies of the EAP accessible to all employees. For operations with less than 10 employees, the plan may be reviewed orally.

Also see this Purdue University resource for all types of farms.  

2. Plan for Evacuation

Know how you will evacuate in a disaster and where you will go.

 If it is not feasible to evacuate your livestock, USDA says to provide adequate food and water to last them until you can return, and a strong shelter. If you plan to move livestock out of state, contact the state veterinarian’s office in the receiving state before you move any animals. You can also contact APHIS Veterinary Services state offices for assistance.

3. Livestock Farmers: Assess Manure Storage, Water and Feed Supplies, Electricity Needs

Many hog farmers ahead of Hurricane Florence are reporting ability of storing at least 25” of rain. Proper lagoon design and maintenance will lower possibility for waste water release. Every hog farm in the state must maintain a minimum buffer of 19” to allow for significant rain events, but many have much higher protection. For more information, see “Hog Farms and Hurricanes: A Primer on Lagoons and Flooding.”

If heavy rainfall causes hog lagoons to reach capacity and overflow, contact your state natural resources or environmental officials. More information can be found at USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Disaster Recovery Assistance.

Ensure feed and water supplies will adequately sustain animals until the disaster is past and normal operations can resume.

Move pastured animals, such as cattle, horses and sheep to higher ground and cut fences if neccessary. Prepare additional feed supplies, as pastures may not provide enough forage until floodwaters recede.

Expect to loose electricity during hurricanes, and be equipped with generators and back up systems for confined livestock. If hog buildings lose electricity, ensure feeding and ventilation needs are met.  


4. Inventory and Label Chemicals, Fuels, Fertilizers and Machinery

Keep good records on the amount of chemical you have in inventory.

Label large equipment, such as fuel tanks or 55-gallon drums of supplies, with your contact information in case flood waters move them off your property.

During and after floodwaters leave, cautiously evaluate on-site and off-site pollution caused by spilled fuels, pesticides, oils, propane, and fertilizers.

Even after floodwaters have receded, spilled product might require expensive remediation.


5. Lists of Emergency Contacts, Suppliers and Employees

Compile a list of contractors who can help with emergency supplies of sand, feed, water and waste removal, and their 24-hour phone numbers. During the emergency, you will be competing for resources.

Without working out a plan ahead of time, the items you need may not be available when you need them.

You can also contact your Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) for individual site consultation.

Specifically, know where you can rent or buy:

  • Large-volume “trash” pumps
  • Large-capacity generators to run lights and pumps
  • Sand and sandbags
  • Clear or black plastic sheeting
  • Tractor-trailers
  • Warehouse space
  • Rain gear to keep employees dry
  • Garden hoses (about 600 feet) and nozzles for cleaning, flushing, and washing
  • Flat shovels for removing muck


After the Disaster Has Passed

Livestock owners and contract growers who experience above normal livestock deaths due to specific weather events, as well as to disease or animal attacks, may qualify for assistance under USDA’s Livestock Indemnity Program.

Livestock, honeybee and farm-raised fish producers who suffer animal, feed, grazing and associated transportation cost losses due to an extreme weather event may qualify for assistance through USDA’s emergency assistance program tailored for their agricultural sectors.

Producers who suffer losses to or are preventing from planting agricultural commodities not covered by federal crop insurance may be eligible for assistance under USDA's Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Programs if the losses were due to natural disasters.

 The Environmental Quality Incentives Program can help with immediate needs and long-term support to help recover from natural disasters and conserve water resources.

Farmers and ranchers needing to rehabilitate farmland damaged by natural disasters can apply for assistance through USDA’s Emergency Conservation Program, Emergency Forest Restoration Program.

 USDA's Emergency Watershed Protection Program also can help relieve imminent threats to life and property caused by flood, fires and other natural disasters that impair a watershed.

Producers with coverage through the Risk Management Agency (RMA) administered Federal crop insurance program should contact their crop insurance agent for issues regarding filing claims. Producers should report crop damage within 72 hours of damage discovery and follow up in writing within 15 days.