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Governor Sanders takes action to secure disaster aid for Arkansas agricultural community

Full federal support requested by Gov. Sanders for Arkansas storm recovery

Little Rock, Arkansas – Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders has taken decisive action to support Arkansas agricultural producers and forest landowners impacted by severe storms earlier this year. In a letter submitted to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Governor Sanders expressed full support for the Arkansas USDA Farm Service Agency’s request for a Secretarial Disaster Declaration and the Emergency Forest Restoration Program (EFRP). This initiative aims to provide essential relief and assistance to those affected by the recent natural disasters.

Arkansas faced several powerful storms in April and May 2024, causing widespread damage to the state’s agricultural and forested areas. Notably, multiple tornadoes on May 25-26 wreaked havoc in northern Arkansas, resulting in significant forest damage. The Arkansas Department of Agriculture’s Forestry Division estimates that over 24,000 acres of forestland were affected, with an estimated loss of $18.4 million.

The storms also severely impacted the livestock and poultry industries, causing damage to pastureland, fences, and poultry houses. Additionally, row crop and specialty crop producers in several counties experienced considerable losses. Affected crops include apples, grapes, berries, corn, soybeans, cotton, rice, and various grasses.

In response to the devastation, the Arkansas Department of Agriculture has collaborated closely with the Governor’s office to support the recovery efforts. Over 40 forestry personnel have been involved in cleanup and storm evaluations in the affected areas. Their assistance includes debris removal, restoring access to roadways and utilities, community planning for debris removal, tree replanting, and clearing trails and damage at Hobbs State Park.

Governor Sanders highlighted the significance of agriculture to Arkansas in her statement: “My dad was fond of saying that if a country can’t feed itself, fuel itself, or fight for itself, then it cannot survive. Agriculture is Arkansas’ largest industry, contributing more than $20 billion to our economy each year and employing one in seven Arkansans. It is also an integral part of our way of life.”

The letter to Secretary Vilsack underscores the urgent need for federal support to aid in the recovery of Arkansas’s agricultural sector. The Secretarial Disaster Declaration and EFRP are critical in providing the necessary resources and assistance to those impacted by the storms. Forest landowners seeking help with forest management decisions, individual damage assessments, and valuing downed timber are encouraged to contact a consulting forester. The Arkansas Department of Agriculture can also provide general education and guidance to those affected.

For comprehensive information on available assistance, affected individuals can visit helparkansas.com. Additionally, details about USDA Disaster Assistance Programs are available on the USDA website. Notably, under A.C.A. 26-51-314, payments from agricultural disaster programs to cattle farmers or ranchers are exempt from state income tax.

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