On Jan. 26 Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns today announced $2.8 billion in aid to assist victims of the 2005 hurricane season. Agricultural producers will receive $1.2 billion through various programs and $1.6 billion will restore homes and rural communities.

"These funds will help producers of many different crops and livestock to recover from damage to their agricultural operations," Johanns said. "We're also pleased to assist rural residents who lost their homes and to help rebuild rural communities through grants and loans to restore water, electrical and telecommunications systems."

Johanns authorized the use of $250 million from Section 32 funds in October 2005 for crop disaster, livestock, tree and aquaculture assistance. These funds will be distributed by way of five new programs; the Tree Indemnity Program (TIP), the Hurricane Indemnity Program (HIP), the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP), and the Feed Indemnity Program (FIP); and an Aquaculture Block Grant program.

Producers in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina and Texas counties declared primary presidential or secretarial disaster areas in 2005 because of hurricanes are eligible to apply for assistance under the new programs. A complete list of these counties is posted online at: www.usda.gov/HurricaneInfo.xml.

On Dec. 30, 2005, President Bush signed the 2006 Defense Appropriations Act, which provides $900 million to address natural disaster damages from 2005 hurricanes. Of these funds, approximately $200 million is designated for the Emergency Conservation Program, $400 million for the Emergency Forestry Conservation Reserve Program, and $300 million for the Emergency Watershed Protection Program (which is available to communities and landowners in Tennessee, in addition to those in the six previously mentioned states).

Sign-up dates for the new programs (LIP, TIP, HIP, and FIP), as well as the Emergency Forestry Conservation Reserve Program, will be announced as soon as new regulations and software are developed. Eligible producers can apply now at any USDA Service Center for Emergency Conservation Program funds to remove hurricane debris from farmland. Emergency Watershed Protection Program funds for eligible projects are available today. Aquaculture grants will be awarded to states and application procedures will be established by Governors or their designees. Aquaculture producers not covered by other disaster programs will be eligible for these funds.

USDA also made the following programs available to farmers and ranchers adversely affected by the 2005 hurricanes: the Emergency Conservation Program, Emergency Loan Program, Federal Crop Insurance and the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program.

Additional information about USDA hurricane assistance is available at USDA Service Centers nationwide and online at www.usda.gov/HurricaneInfo.xml.