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Secretary’s Column: Helping Americans Through Natural Disasters

These past months have brought tough times for folks across the nation.  Unusual weather patterns – too much water in some places, not enough elsewhere – have driven thousands of Americans from their homes, and threatened their livelihoods.

Other families have seen their lives turned upside down by tornados or threatened by historic wildfires.

In these difficult times, my heart goes out to all of those who have been touched by these disasters.  And I want folks to know that at USDA – and across the federal government – we are we are doing our best to serve all those who have been affected.

Over the past months, our top priority in responding to disaster has been to minimize damage to homes, crop land, businesses, property, and – most importantly – to protect the American people.

Across the country – and particularly in the southwestern states – our Forest Service wildland fire fighters have risked their lives fighting blazes to avert disaster and minimize the damage to communities.

To respond to the terrible tornadoes that hit Alabama, Mississippi and Missouri, we worked with FEMA to ensure that those residents who were affected had access to food and shelter.

And after ensuring that people are safe and have their basic needs met, we are helping put Americans on the road to recovery as quickly as possible.

For farmers, ranchers, and growers, that means making sure that folks who are eligible for crop insurance, emergency loans or other USDA disaster assistance programs know about their options.  These disasters also remind us of the importance maintaining a strong safety net for our agricultural producers.

To help individuals recover and communities rebuild thriving economies, we are helping rural families and businesses with the financing they need to repair or replace damaged property.  And in the aftermath of floods we are helping states with debris removal and other efforts to restore the land.

I know how hard these times can be.

In the past weeks, I have met with dozens of families who have been affected by these terrible disasters.  In Mississippi I met folks whose homes were blown away by a tornado.  In Iowa and Nebraska I met farmers whose fields were covered by 4 feet of water who didn’t know whether they’d get any crop at all this year.

But I have also watched an impressive response.  In Arizona I met men and women who have spent the weeks on the front lines working to control enormous blazes.  And in Washington DC and across the nation – I have seen USDA’s efforts to support the American people in these difficult times.  We are reaching out on the local level meet with community leaders and maximize our support.

These natural disasters have challenged us as a nation.  But we have responded by coming together with the goal of rebuilding and revitalizing what has been damaged or destroyed.  USDA is committed to standing behind the American people in that effort.

You can find the audio version of the weekly message here.

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