Sen. Brian Schatz announced Thursday that the United States Department of Agriculture designated Hawai'i County as a primary natural disaster area due to damages and losses caused by wind, rain, and flooding from Tropical Storm Iselle.
After a review of the Hawai'i County Loss Assessment Reports, the USDA determined that there were sufficient agricultural production losses to warrant a Secretarial natural disaster designation.
"Many farmers in Puna are still recovering after suffering devastating crop loss due to Tropical Storm Iselle and they need our help," Schatz said. "I thank USDA Secretary Thomas Vilsack for reviewing the Loss Assessment Reports and for issuing a Secretarial natural disaster designation for Hawai'i County. Support from the USDA will help ensure that our farmers in Hawai'i County will receive the assistance they need."
"As someone who had the opportunity to see firsthand the destruction that Hurricane Iselle left befind, I am pleased that Secretary Vilsack understands the vital role our agriculture industry plays in sustaining our small, rural communities, and I thank him for making federal assistance available for those farmers who are trying to recover from the storm," said Rep. Colleen Hanabusa. "It was extremely disappointing that the Federal Emergency Management Agency denied our state’s request for a Presidential Disaster Declaration to provide individual assistance for the victims of Iselle, but I will continue to seek alternatives avenues of funding to address these critical needs."
A Secretarial disaster designation makes farm operators in primary counties and those counties contiguous to such primary counties eligible to be considered for certain assistance from the Farm Service Agency, provided eligibility requirements are met. This assistance includes FSA emergency loans. Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of a Secretarial disaster declaration to apply for emergency loans.
FSA considers each emergency loan application on its own merits, taking into account the extent of production losses on the farm, and the security and repayment ability of the operator. So far, FSA has received over 100 inquiries for assistance from producers in Hawai'i County.