Heartbreak in the Heartland
Photos courtesy of Clemson University
Farmers in areas battered by Hurricanes Katrina, Ophelia and Rita face unprecedented challenges. Media coverage has focused primarily on high-profile cities like New Orleans and Houston, but “we are witness to immense tragedies in the rural areas of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana,” says Ralph Paige, executive director of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives’ Land Assistance Fund.
In these three states, approximately 825,000 head of cattle and calves lived in counties that sustained hurricane-force winds, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. All Americans will likely be affected by reduced milk production. Of the 15,000 beef cattle in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana, 10,000 are presumed dead—a loss estimated at $8 million.
For Farmers in Need
Farm Aid is working to assist family farmers who sustained losses.
- If you’re a Louisiana farmer, contact the Louisiana Interchurch Conference at (225) 344-0134.
- If you’re from Mississippi, call the Federation of Southern Cooperatives at (404) 765-0991.
- For legal advice about disaster relief, call the Farmers Legal Action Group at (651) 223-5400.
To Donate Money
Americans may donate money to Farm Aid’s Disaster Fund by clicking here.
Dr. Tony Caver, South Carolina’s state veterinarian and director of Livestock-Poultry Health Programs at Clemson University, offers the following tips for livestock owners:
- Assess your property for safety. Secure structures like fences and anything around the barn/other facilities.
- Plan ahead. Make arrangements for evacuation. Map out the route before a disaster hits.
- Develop a communication plan. Let at least one other person know where you’re taking your animals.
- You’ll need to carry certain items in a watertight bag: animal identification, vaccination and health records, your veterinarian’s phone number, other emergency numbers and a list of supplies (flashlights, buckets, etc.).
- Contact your local animal care and control agency, agricultural extension agent or local emergency management authorities for information about shelters in your area.
- Prepare a basic first-aid kit that is portable and easily accessible.
- Be sure to have on hand a supply of water, hay, feed and medications for several days for each animal you are evacuating.
If you cannot evacuate your animals:
- Make sure each one has durable and visible identification. Reinforce your house, barn and outbuildings with hurricane straps and other measures.
- Modify fencing and open gates so animals may move to high ground in a flood and to low-lying areas during high winds.
- Install a hand pump and obtain enough large containers to water your animals for at least a week after a hurricane.
- If you have boats, feed troughs or other large containers, fill them with water before any high-wind event. This prevents them from blowing around and also gives you an additional supply of water.
- A generator with a safely stored supply of fuel may be essential, as electrical equipment is necessary for animals’ well-being.
- Secure or remove anything that could become blowing debris.
“The earlier you start planning, the better off you’ll be,” Dr. Caver says.