FAIRWAY — Federal disaster money will pour into Kansas — and other states — because of the lingering, stifling drought.
How much money?
Wait until the proverbial dust settles, federal officials say.
Hypothetically and theoretically.
Wait, they say, until farmers finish harvesting and agriculture officials calculate how much expected production did not happen, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told the online news service Agri-Pulse.com.
The federal government paid Kansas farmers and ranchers nearly $160 million in 2010, the latest year for which totals were published, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service reports.
In fact, disaster payments that year were Kansas’ sixth largest cash crop.
But the money comes from various sources, and no clearinghouse exists to track all disaster relief money in the affected states.
Things will get even cloudier in Kansas after Friday, when Gov. Sam Brownback asked Vilsack to declare disasters in 37 additional counties, mostly in the northeastern quarter of the state. If the request is approved, natural disaster declarations will cover 103 of the state’s 105 counties.
In Kansas, the U.S. Agriculture Department’s Farm Service Agency and the Kansas Agriculture Department broadly track drought and other disaster relief efforts offered to farmers, when U.S. agriculture secretaries declare disasters. When the president declares disasters, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Kansas Division of Emergency Management oversee relief efforts.
The divisions make sense, because USDA and FEMA aid packages differ widely, said Sharon Watson, KDEM‘s public information officer.
Farmers who qualify for help under USDA disasters are generally offered varioius low-cost loans or payments to help with production losses, should insurance be unavailable.
Most of the assistance offered in Kansas after a presidentially declared disaster goes to cities, counties, local governments or nonprofits, Watson said.
It can take years, even decades, to recover from some natural disasters. But who’s keeping track of the totals?
Not Brownback, said Sherriene Jones-Sontag, his press secretary.
“I don’t have a list, because the agencies handle those details after the governor is done with the declarations.”
Not the nation’s crop insurers, who probably will distribute massive payouts after Kansas’ next harvest.
“I don’t think there is a list,” said David Graves, manager and secretary of the American Association of Crop Insurers, a service organization representing 80 percent of the nation’s crop insurance industry.
“These programs need to be designed on a national scale, but our nation is so large that there is nothing standard about the land on which our crops grow,” Graves said.
Private industry, maybe?
Safeguard Properties is a Valley View, Ohio, property management service firm, serving owners of uninhabited property in all 50 states.
It maintains one of the more comprehensive collections of disaster declaration information, culled daily and posted online.
“We get most of our information by reading media reports and by checking FEMA’s website,” said Megan Greenwalt, a spokeswoman for the firm.
“We don’t have a complete list, either,” she said.