Agricultural agencies respond to Sandy's devastation

By Aarian Marshall

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

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WASHINGTON, October 30, 2012 - Though meteorologists warn that Superstorm Sandy's effects are not quite over, various federal and state agricultural agencies have begun to respond to the disaster across the battered East Coast region.

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In the nation's capital, the USDA is closed to all non-emergency personnel. Meanwhile, the agency continues to push its food safety tips on its website, which advises citizens to keep a close eye on perishable foods if the power goes out in their area. The agency's conclusion, bolded and hard to miss: “When in Doubt, throw it Out!”

New Jersey, which bore the brunt of Sandy's landfall, urged farmers to begin preparation for the storm as early as possible. The state's Department of Agriculture published a list of preparedness tips for those citizens with livestock or pets.

The scope of the storm's damage in New Jersey is still unclear, though reports thus far have been dramatic. Notable, however, is governor and rising GOP party star Chris Christie's praise for President Obama's leadership during this time of crisis. “The president…[has] been outstanding with us so far,” he told Good Morning America.

In Pennsylvania, Agriculture Secretary George Grieg advised farmers to “prepare now to minimize losses.” “Hurricane Sandy has the potential to cause significant damage to crops and property,” Grieg said in a press release yesterday. He reminded farmers to relocate livestock to higher ground; to store enough feed and water for 72 hours; and to notify crop insurance agents within 72 hours of any crop damage.

Sandy, though weakened, will continue to pummel Pennsylvania throughout much of the day.

Maryland's state government is closed today, including its Department of Agriculture. The agency has not issued an official statement since October 28, a day before Sandy hit, when it urged agriculturalists to prepare for the impending storm.

In New York, much of the devastation appears to be in the state's urban areas. “We are hearing fairly good reports from field staff regarding how our farmers fared in the storm,” the New York Farm Bureau posted on its Facebook page. While areas north of the city have seen some power outages, the state's Farm Bureau says there are “no reports of damage or heavy flooding.”

In North Carolina, power outages at the state Department of Agriculture have closed that agency for the day, according to a local news report.

Meteorologists urge citizens, including farmers, to stay tuned - they expect Sandy's strong, though weakened, winds and floods to continue to threaten the area for the next few days. 

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