Documentation for USDA-FSA Disaster Relief Programs

Documentation for USDA-FSA Disaster Relief Programs

 Tractor clearing debris

Following the USDA-FSA (United States Department of Agriculture-Farm Service Agency) meetings that were held across the Panhandle in response to Hurricane Michael, one word was a common factor program qualification: DOCUMENTATION!

In fact, most times it was said that producers need to “Document, Document, and Document.” But what exactly does that mean, and how exactly should it be done? And let’s face it, most of us in the agricultural industry are not the best at taking the time to write things down, especially after the storm of the century! However, in this case, it is not an option, but a necessity. In addition to pictures, work and purchase logs will be needed to fully document damage and recovery efforts.

Records should be kept for each individual USDA Farm Number. Documentation of labor and efforts will need to be recorded and broken down by farm numbers. If you do not know your farm number or need to create one, please contact your USDA-FSA office. In addition, records should be kept in detail for all work that is done by the producer and/or those that are hired out.

Work Log

Keeping detailed records of all activities related to the storm is critical for the USDA-FSA programs. Producers will not only need to log the scope of work but also record the following:

  • Date work doneCutting up a fallen tree
  • Who completed work (Self vs. Hire)
  • Rate charged (per hour/acre/tree etc.)
  • Scope of work
  • Man-hours worked
  • Size and type of equipment used (Chainsaws, generators, tractors, trucks, trailers, etc.)

This includes all chainsaw work, time spent in your tractors or dozers and other equipment that is used during storm clean up. Also, remember to log it as man hours. For example, if 3 people from your farm run chainsaws for 8 hours doing debris removal, that would be logged as 24 hours (3 men x 8 hours). In addition, include details about locations of work done and how/why it was required to maintain or restore normal operation of your farm. For example, tree removed from the field to allow for harvest equipment to enter a field, or cleanup of damaged feed barn to allow of additional feed to be delivered for livestock.

Purchase Log

Expenses from the storm can help quantify the scope of damage. Detailed records and receipts should be kept of all purchases made in relation to the disaster.  This will be key for disaster relief programs, as well as for tax purposes. These purchase/expenses could include:

  • Fence Repair Supplies
  • Fuel
  • Feed (above normal or as a replacement of lost feed)
  • Vet Supplies (Replacement of lost vaccines from power outages)
  • Capital purchases

Photographs

In addition to work and purchase logs, photographs are key documentation. These too should be kept by farm number. While taking photos, take close ups as well as wide angle pictures that help capture the vastness of the damage in addition to being able to be used to help verify the location of the pictures. If you are able to email pictures to yourself, after documenting a farm/location, email those pictures to yourself with the location and other important information to help keep images organized. This will also allow for pictures to be stored in more than one location as a backup.

Long story short, it is better to over-document, than to wish you had. Utilization of these logs will help keep records for each farm number and give your operation a great starting point when meeting with USDA-FSA program staff to report your storm damage. Detailed information about Disaster Assistance Programs are available online or by contacting local offices.  Additional information or types of documentation can be seen from the Wisconsin FSA document: Disaster Assistance Program Loss Documentation  

Copies of the Work and Purchase Logs can be downloaded for printing using the following links, or are available by mail by calling the UF/IFAS Extension Holmes County Office  850-547-1108.

Work Log

Purchase Log

Benefits of Nematodes in Healthy Soil Ecosystems

Benefits of Nematodes in Healthy Soil Ecosystems

The Steinernema scapterisci insect-parasitic nematode in the juvenile phase can infect and kill insects in the Orthoptera order, such as grasshoppers and crickets. Photo by David Cappaert, Bugwood.org.

The Steinernema scapterisci insect-parasitic nematode in the juvenile phase can infect and kill insects in the Orthoptera order, such as grasshoppers and crickets. Photo by David Cappaert, Bugwood.org.

Nematodes. Those microscopic, worm-like creatures that enter or attach themselves to crop roots, pierce root tissue, suck up root juices, and destroy crop yields.

Roots of a pepper plant infected by southern root-knot nematodes (Meloidogyne incognita) have extensive gall damage. Photo by Scott Bauer, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Bugwood.org.

Roots of a pepper plant infected by southern root-knot nematodes (Meloidogyne incognita) have extensive gall damage. Photo by Scott Bauer, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Bugwood.org.

But did you know, plant-parasitic nematodes are only a very small fraction of the nematodes living in your soil? And did you know most nematodes are harmless to crops – and many are even beneficial?

Although the threat of plant-parasitic nematodes damaging your crops is a concern, if a few important agricultural principles are followed – such as carefully designed crop rotations and building soil organic matter content – nematode-induced yield losses can be drastically reduced, while supporting nematode populations that will actually benefit your crops.

Nematodes are most abundant in the upper-most soil horizons, where up to 10 million individual nematodes can live per 10 square feet of soil. They subsist mostly in water-filled pore space near organic matter and plant roots.

Because of the havoc they can cause, plant parasitic nematodes, such as root-knot nematodes, have been the species most widely studied by scientists. But there are many other types of nematodes less studied, generally classified by their mouthparts and diet. Some strictly feed on either fungi or bacteria, while others are predatory, relying on other nematodes or protozoa for their diet; and others are omnivorous, able to feed on fungi and bacteria when their preferred prey is scarce, or conditions are unfavorable.

Light tillage, especially coupled with soil conservation practices and use of cover crops, can increase organic residue decomposition by bacteria and bacterial feeding nematodes, leading to more plant available nutrients for the season. Photo by Anthony LeBude, NC State University, Bugwood.org.

Light tillage, especially coupled with soil conservation practices and use of cover crops, can increase organic residue decomposition by bacteria and bacterial feeding nematodes, leading to more plant available nutrients for the season. Photo by Anthony LeBude, NC State University, Bugwood.org.

Different types of nematodes play different roles in a soil system. In row crop systems, maintaining a diversified food web through soil conservation and organic matter additions can support nematode populations that actually enhance nutrient mineralization and plant nutrient availability. This is especially beneficial in farming systems reliant on organic nutrient sources, as bacterial feeding nematodes consume nitrogen-containing bacteria and release excess nitrogen as plant available ammonium (NH4+). Nematodes can also rejuvenate old bacterial and fungal colonies and spread these microorganisms into organic residues whose nutrients may otherwise remain immobile and unavailable to plants.

Although overly intensive tillage can disturb the soil food web, properly managed tillage can actually promote healthy soil ecosystems. Light soil disturbances – especially coupled with compost and manure additions – increase the availability of organic residues to be consumed by bacteria, which in turn stimulate bacterial feeding nematodes, leading to a net increase of available nitrogen for plant uptake. And although fungal feeding nematodes are more abundant in no-till and perennial agricultural systems, bacterial feeding nematodes are better at releasing plant available nitrogen than their fungal feeding counterparts.

Thousands of Heterorhabditis bacteriophora insect-parasitic nematodes emerging out of a wax moth cadaver, ready for use as a biological control to protect crops from pests such as weevils, beetles, and flies. Photo by Peggy Greb, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Bugwood.org.

Thousands of Heterorhabditis bacteriophora insect-parasitic nematodes emerging out of a wax moth cadaver, ready for use as a biological control to protect crops from pests such as weevils, beetles, and flies. Photo by Peggy Greb, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Bugwood.org.

Another type of nematode that can be beneficial to farming systems is the insect-parasitic bacterial feeding nematode. These nematodes, such as the species Heterorhabditis bacteriophora and Steinernema scapterisci, have mutualistic relationships with bacteria, in that both the nematode and bacteria rely on one another to reproduce and grow. In their infective juvenile stage, these specialized nematodes carry within their intestines specific bacteria. The nematodes can penetrate the body of many insect hosts, such as cutworms, mole crickets, citrus weevils, sawfly and fungus gnat larvae, and many more depending on nematode species, and release the bacteria into the insect’s body cavity where it multiplies to the point of killing the insect. This allows the nematode to develop into an adult inside the insect’s body and reproduce new juveniles, which emerge from the cadaver to search for a new host. Thousands of nematodes can be produced from just one infected insect host. These types of nematodes are even available commercially as a biological insect control, most commonly applied to moistened fields as liquid suspensions at a rate of about one million per acre, depending on the crop. As they are living organisms, care must be taken not to kill the nematodes with excessive pressure, temperature, agitation, or sun exposure. It is also important to select the correct nematode species to match target insect pests.

A white grub larva infected by a Heterorhabditis bacteriophora insect-parasitic nematode next to two healthy white grub larvae for comparison. Photo by Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University, Bugwood.org.

A white grub larva infected by a Heterorhabditis bacteriophora insect-parasitic nematode next to two healthy white grub larvae for comparison. Photo by Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University, Bugwood.org.

Predatory nematodes have biological control capabilities as well, in that they can regulate populations of other nematodes – bacterial and fungal feeding – and most importantly, root-eating plant parasitic nematodes. And as part of any healthy soil food web, there are a wide variety of natural enemies that help keep in check nematode populations, such as predatory micro-arthropods and nematode ensnaring fungi. Agricultural systems designed to support a healthy soil ecosystem can therefore more successfully defend against plant parasitic nematodes and other crop diseases and pests. They can also facilitate enhanced nutrient cycling, which supports plant nutrient uptake, leading to overall healthy crop growth.

Florida Forest Service Requirements for Open Burning in Hurricane Michael Impacted Areas

Florida Forest Service Requirements for Open Burning in Hurricane Michael Impacted Areas

Source:  Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS)

Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam and the Florida Forest Service released requirements for open burning, effective November 2, 2018, in the following counties impacted by Hurricane Michael: Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Jackson, Liberty and Washington.

The Florida Forest Service created two geographical zones, primary and secondary, to identify hurricane-impacted areas with specific open burning requirements. Effective immediately through January 7, 2019, burning hurricane vegetative debris in the impact area zones requires an on-site inspection and burn authorization from the Florida Forest Service. Zone parameters are as follows:

Primary Zone

  • Certified pile burning is allowed.
  • Non-certified pile burning is allowed at Disaster Debris Management Sites approved by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection or with an Air Curtain Incinerator.
  • On-site inspections are required for all burn authorizations.
  • Broadcast burning is not allowed.

Secondary Zone

  • Certified pile burning is allowed.
  • Non-certified pile burning is allowed.
  • Broadcast burning is allowed.
  • Fire Supervisor approval is required for all burn authorizations.

We have thoroughly evaluated the wildfire risks in these areas hardest hit by the storm,” said Jim Karels, State Forester and Director of the Florida Forest Service. “Our plan will effectively reintroduce open burning into these areas with firefighter and public safety as the primary focus.”

Due to the immediate need for certification, the Florida Forest Service is offering two courses:

Certified Pile Burner Course on November 27 or November 28 – Marianna, FL.

Hurricane Michael’s destructive path through the Florida Panhandle resulted in significant damage to homes and property, including nearly 3 million acres of timberland. The volume of timber on the ground has created a serious threat, causing great concern for catastrophic wildfire danger in the short and long term. The Florida Forest Service has transported additional heavy equipment into the area and is working with state and federal agencies to assist with re-establishing fire lines.

To obtain a burn authorization in Bay, Calhoun, Gulf, Jackson or Washington County, contact (850) 373-1801. To obtain a burn authorization in Franklin, Gadsden or Liberty County, contact (850) 681-5951. Certified burn authorizations may also be obtained by downloading the free FLBurnTools app in Apple App Store or on Google Play.

The Florida Forest Service will continuously evaluate current requirements to determine if restrictions are appropriate. For current wildfire conditions, interactive fire maps and more information on burn authorizations, visit FloridaForestService.com.

Certified Pile Burner Courses – November 27 or 28

Certified Pile Burner Courses – November 27 or 28

In response to the large amount of storm debris from Hurricane Michael, the Florida Forest Service and the University of Florida Jackson County Extension Service will be offering a no-cost, Certified Pile Burner Course in Marianna, Florida. For the next several months, because of the risk of wildfires and the challenge of private property access, only certified pile burners will be issued commercial permits in the primary impacted region of Hurricane Michael.

This is one-day class will be offered on consecutive days to allow greater participation:

Choose either Tuesday, November 27, 2018 or Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Class size may be limited, so register early.  This course will show you how to burn piles legally, safely, and efficiently.  This training will be held from 8:30 am till 4:30 pm Central Time at the Jackson County Agriculture Offices, 2741 Pennsylvania Ave., Marianna, Florida.

There will be a test at the end of the session. You must receive a grade of 70% or higher on the exam to pass the course.  After passing the course, you will need to demonstrate a proper pile burn with approval from your local Florida Forest Service (FFS) office to become certified.

Florida’s Certified Pile Burner Training Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why should I be a certified pile burner?
A: Certified pile burners are trained to burn piles legally, safely and efficiently. Most importantly, it could save a life. Also, when the weather is dry, certified pile burners will receive priority for authorization to burn by the Florida Forest Service (FFS). Also, certified pile burners are allowed to burn up to two hours longer per day and get multiple day authorizations.

Q: What is a Pile Burner Customer Number?
A: When you call the FFS for an authorization to burn, you will be assigned a personal customer number.  This number references your information, so it doesn’t need to be gathered each time you call for an authorization. You must have your individual FFS customer number in order to be certified.

Q: Is there a test?
A: Yes, the test is 20 questions and open-book. You must receive a score of at least 70% to pass.

Q: What if I don’t pass?
A: Very few people fail the test but if you do, you will be provided another opportunity to take the test at a later date. If you fail the second time, you must re-register and take the training again.

Q: Why do you ask for my email on the application form?
A: Email is the fastest and most convenient method to inform registrants of their registration status. If no email address is provided, then all correspondence will be sent through the federal mail. This can take several days to relay messages, and this may not be practical if changes are made to the course schedule or for last minute registrations.

Q: Is there a cost for the training?
A: No. This is a special class in response to Hurricane Michael, the traditional $50 fee has been waived for these courses.

Q: How long does my certification last, and how long do I have to complete the certification from the time I finish the class?
A: As long as the person with the certification uses their number at least 5 times in a period of 5 years their certification will not expire under the current program. You MUST complete the certification burn within a year of taking the class.

Q: Will certified burners be notified if their certification expires?
A: Yes, notification will be sent out to them to let them know of their upcoming certification expiration date.

Q: Will I be certified at the end of the one-day training?
A: No, you will need to follow the written instructions that you will receive from the FFS to become certified. You will need to complete a simple burn plan, have it reviewed and approved locally by the FFS and also have the burn itself reviewed and approved by the FFS.

Q: Is there a minimum age to be a certified pile burner?
A: Yes, you must be at least 18 years old to take the test and be a certified pile burner.

Marianna Pile Burner Certification Course Registration Packet

 

For more information, contact: 

Florida Forest Service
Sabrina Willey
850-681-5900
Sabrina.Willey@FreshFromFlorida.com

Hurricane Impacted Timberlands – Availble Resources

Hurricane Impacted Timberlands – Availble Resources

 

A track of mature loblolly pines in Washington County severely effected by hurricane Michael.  Photo Credit: Mark Mauldin

Hurricane Michael was particularly devastating to the timber industry in the Central Panhandle. The Florida Forest Service has released a report quantifying the extent of the damage. As we move from emergency response, towards recovery there are a variety of resources available to help landowners.

There are federal programs available to provide financial assistance with tasks like debris removal. (Follow the link for more information on the federal programs currently available.)

The Florida Forest Service and the Florida Forestry Association have both complied resources to help landowners begin to move through this challenging time. Perhaps the most sought after resource right now is contact information for loggers and consultants. This information is available through the FFS Vendor Database and the FFA Master Logger Contact List.

UF/IFAS Extension has released a new publication, Assessment and Management of Hurricane Damaged Timberland, to assist timberland owners navigate the plethora of post-storm challenges they are facing.

Hurricane Michael left the area with an incredible number of downed trees. All of these trees are now potential fuel for wildfires. In areas, estimates are as high as 100 tons of available fuel per acre. As time passes and the fuel dries the risk of devastating wildfires increases. To help prevent wildfires there is a complete burn ban in effect for Bay, Calhoun, Gadsden, Gulf, and Jackson Counties. In other counties burning is only permissible with a Burn Authorization from the Florida Forest Service. Do Not burn without an authorization – it is unsafe and irresponsible. Throughout the impacted area, even after the burn bans are lifted, burn authorizations will be issued on a very limited basis; possibly only to certified burners. In an effort to increase the number of certified burners in the impacted area the FFS is offering two Certified Pile Burner Courses. Courses will be held at the UF/IFAS Extension Office in Marianna on November 27 & 28. Contact your county forester to register for the courses.

There is a complete burn ban in place for the 5 counties shown in orange.  Source: Florida Forest Service

Assistance Available through NRCS for Ag Land Damaged by Hurricane Michael

Assistance Available through NRCS for Ag Land Damaged by Hurricane Michael

Source:  USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service

Florida farmers and ranchers who suffered damage to working lands and livestock mortality due to Hurricane Michael are encouraged to sign up for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) through the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

Agricultural producers in Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Leon, Liberty, Wakulla and Washington counties are eligible to apply for assistance. The first sign-up period ends Nov. 16, 2018. A second sign-up period will end Dec. 14, 2018. This assistance is available to individual farmers and ranchers to aid in recovery efforts on their properties and does not apply to local governments or other entities.

Conservation practices available through EQIP can protect your land from erosion, support disaster recovery and repair, and can help mitigate loss from exceptional storm events in the future. Farmers and ranchers seeking financial and technical assistance through EQIP should visit their local NRCS office to sign up. Bonifay, Marianna and Quincy field offices are open to serve producers in Calhoun, Franklin, Gulf and Liberty counties until the Blountstown Field Office is repaired.

For more information on NRCS and the EQIP program, visit the Florida NRCS website. For more information on disaster assistance programs for farmers and ranchers, visit farmers.gov/recover.