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August 22, 2019

AgAmerica’s Top Five Tips to Help Farmers Prepare for a Natural Disaster

Follow these tips to protect your farm or ranch during a disaster.

Among the many challenges farmers face, the weather is one of the greatest influences of them all. Hurricanes, floods, fires, drought, and disease outbreaks make long-lasting impacts on the land, and subsequently the farms, ranches, and families who depend on their profitability to support our nation.

Developing a disaster management plan can help farms overcome Mother Nature’s most devastating natural disasters and reduce the loss of crops, livestock, or infrastructure. As Mac Miller, Senior Vice President at AgAmerica Lending says, “Expect the unexpected and try to plan for it.”

Tip One: Identify Higher Ground Ahead of Flooding

According to North Dakota State University, reducing floodwater losses starts with adding flood-fighting supplies like sandbags, plastic sheeting, wire, rope, and plywood to your farm supplies. Having these essentials on hand, improve farm operators’ ability to respond quickly to rising water or dangerous conditions.

Farms can also mitigate risks by:

  • Moving valuable and potentially hazardous farm items to higher ground—livestock, machinery, feed, grain, fuel, and pesticides. Remember parts and tools, too. The upper level of a barn can provide temporary storage.
  • Keeping vaccinations up to date, particularly for livestock with exposure risk to floodwaters.
  • Add additional fuel to your reserve and store in a safe place above areas prone to flooding.
  • Shut off power to buildings within flood zones.
  • Secure earthen manure storage facilities.

Make a record of your farm’s inventory of livestock, machinery, and hazardous substances.

Tip Two: Implement Land and Water Management Strategies During a Drought

Year-round efforts to preserve water resources will prepare the farm for when a spell of dryness turns to drought. “Your plan should be part of a comprehensive conservation plan that considers the kinds and conditions of all of your resources,” USDA advises, “and consider how crops, forage, and other resources have reacted to drought in the past.” Some of the most important considerations you should make are:

  • Evaluate irrigation systems that best fit the farm’s needs. Use devices that measure water use and reduce loss to evaporation, percolation, and runoff.
  • Store water in field ditches or build a storage system to use during the irrigation season.
  • Adopt conservation tillage to preserve soil moisture.
  • Implement conservation practices that encourage water infiltration.
  • Establish and maintain conservation buffers, such as riparian buffers, filter strips, and grassed waterways, near water sources.

Secure alternative feed sources for cattle and other grazing animals with inadequate pastureland during a drought.

Tip Three: Prepare for a Hurricane by Stocking Up on Essentials

Farms and ranches should safely store enough essentials to continue operating under constrained conditions for at least one to two weeks past a hurricane, says University of Florida Extension Specialist. Due to the variable conditions of a hurricane, farmers must prepare for a spectrum of damage, including wind, water, fire, and even mold. The University of Florida recommends taking the following action before hurricane season to help safeguard your operation during a storm.

  • Stock up on up to two weeks’ worth of supplies for animals, including hay, feed, medications, and other health-care items.
  • Run generators regularly to ensure that they function properly.
  • Check operability of chainsaws and keep additional fuel on hand.
  • Store an additional supply of batteries, flashlights, and lanterns for all family members and employees. Be sure to keep a supply in high-traffic areas and in areas that you will need to access immediately after the storm.
  • Maintain a supply of fencing materials in case repairs are needed.

Tip Four: Recognize and Relocate Fire Hazards

The Firewise program at Michigan State University Extension recommends an emergency pre-plan, action plan, and recovery plan to best prepare for a wildfire.

  • Beware of common farmstead fire hazards—old wooden farm structures, flammable liquids, hay, and straw—as well as animals that are unable to escape fenced areas.
  • Recognize “fire weather,” and watch the forecasts.
  • Pre-designate areas for livestock and human evacuation, fueling, and water supply.
  • Train farm employees on how to safely respond to fire.
  • Learn how to properly treat land and crops after exposure to heat. For example, Michigan State University Extension reports that watering crops immediately after a wildfire can pH-shock certain vegetation and impact production for years.

Tip Five: Utilize Biosecurity Measures to Deter Disease

Movement of people, trucks, and other animals on and off the farm can increase the risk of widespread disease. Biosecurity is everyone’s responsibility, from the farm owner to an employee, or even a visiting agribusiness representative. Staying vigilant to high-risk areas, especially during a natural disaster is crucial to the protection of livestock. When supplies is limited or has been contaminated by water or debris, it’s important to isolate and regulate farm activities by:

  • Monitoring animals and people who enter the farm, as well as inputs like water, feed, and fertilizer.
  • Practicing on-farm hygiene to reduce the spread of pests and disease through direct contact with feed, water resources, and packaging.
  • Actively control weeds and feral animals that can harbor plant and zoonotic diseases.

Training employees on best practices and enforcing recordkeeping on animal sales, purchases, and movement to trace any outbreak.

Even with the best preparations, keeping your farm operation running during a natural disaster can be challenging. If you need assistance, refer to the USDA’s Disaster Resources Guide to find programs that provide financial or material assistance based on your operation’s needs after a disaster.

AgAmerica Acknowledges the Risks Farmers Face During a Disaster

We understand the volatility of farming and the challenges our nation’s farmers face throughout the year. When a natural disaster impacts your farm operation, the effects can be long-term. Learn how AgAmerica can help you overcome the financial impacts of a disaster and help you rebuild your operation. Contact us today to speak with one of our land loan specialists.

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