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Applying for Financial Assistance When Disaster Strikes
By Natasha Williams
The water in the room is 3 feet deep. The entire building is filled with the smell of mildew and
spoiled meat. There's everything from chubs to pre-processed meat—even protective coats and hats—floating in
the water. Within a matter of minutes, thousands of dollars have been lost and valuable merchandise destroyed. The
damage seems beyond repair, and a feeling of helplessness settles in. Many might think, "This could never happen to me."
Natural disasters can be unpredictable. And while certain geographic areas are more prone to natural calamities than others, we
could all be susceptible to a flood, tornado, hurricane, or earthquake. As a business owner, you must be prepared
for anything, especially for something as unpredictable as a natural disaster.
While the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has prepared resources to advise
on the preparation, response, and recovery of your products and employees, such as the brochure
Flooding: A Checklist
for Small and Very Small Meat, Poultry, and Egg Processing Plants, where would you turn to if you had to rebuild?
In addition to your insurance policy, there are other sources of financial assistance you can tap to put your
business back on the road to financial recovery after a disaster. USDA's Rural Development has programs that
small and very small plants can use to help repair damage from natural disasters. Although it does not have the
authority to provide disaster assistance, Rural Development can help existing borrowers who are victims of a disaster.
This means you need to be a current customer of Rural Development, already participating in one of the five
following programs, to receive more financial aid:
- Business and Industry Guaranteed Loans,
- Rural Business Enterprise Grants,
- Rural Business Opportunity Grants,
- Intermediary Relending Program, and
- Rural Economic Development Loans and Grants.
Many of these programs were covered in the article "Assistance Available to Small Plants in Rural Areas" in
Small Plant News, Volume 1, Number 3. However, two of
these programs might help the most if you need to rebuild after a disaster.
With the Business and Industry Guaranteed Loans (B&I) program, eligibility for financial aid is based on
whether your business resides in a rural area. "They [small and very small plants] can be approved if the small business
is in a designated rural disaster area. We cannot grant eligibility outside of the rural area," said Lisa Siesennop,
loan specialist for the B&I program's business industry group.
Rural Development instruction 4729 defines a rural area as "Any area other than (1) a city or town that has a
population greater than 50,000 and (2) the urbanized area contiguous and adjacent to such a city or town, as defined
by the U.S. Bureau of the Census using the latest decennial census of the United States."
The Rural Business Enterprise Grants (RBEG) program provides grants for which most small and very small meat
and poultry processing plants might be eligible. Under RBEG, small plants within a rural area, with a population
of less than 50,000, can be eligible for a grant to renovate their establishment. RBEG funds projects that involve
construction, plant renovation, equipment, and machinery, just to name a few.
In order to be considered a business that is small enough to receive the RBEG grant, plants must make less
than $1 million per year and cannot employ more than 50 employees. Under this grant program, small plants
destroyed by a natural disaster can be renovated and valuable equipment needed for processing can be restored
if the business owner is deemed eligible. This grant has no price limitations; however, those needing less funding are
usually given precedence.
A natural disaster is not something you probably want to think about; however, being fully prepared and
knowledgeable of available assistance is vital. Natural disasters such as floods, tornadoes, wildfires, hurricanes,
or earthquakes do not have to completely wipe out your livelihood. Rural Development is not only another source to
consider for providing financial assistance, but it also gives guidance as to what loans and grants you best qualify for
and can point you in the right direction for natural disaster assistance.
For further information on programs for business owners in the event of a natural disaster, visit
www.rurdev.usda.gov/rd/disasters/ or contact the Rural Development's Business Programs office at (202) 720-7287.
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Disaster Assistance Contacts in USDA
Rural Development Briefs
To apply for financial assistance, business owners should contact a business program specialist at their local USDA Rural Development office listed below.
|Florida (including U.S. Virgin Islands)
|Hawaii (including American Samoa, Guam, Common Wealth of the Marianas Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of Palau, and Marshall Islands)
||(317) 290-3100; ext. 4
||(866) 923-5626; ext. 1
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Commonly Asked Questions & Answers
Q. Can the temperature of eviscerated and non-eviscerated poultry carcasses be allowed to exceed 55 °F?
A. No, eviscerated and non-eviscerated carcasses are required to be chilled to 40
°F immediately after slaughter following the time requirements for weight of carcass in 9 Code of Federal Regulations
(CFR) 381.66(b) (2). During further processing, they may rise to a maximum of 55 °F, provided the temperature
is promptly lowered to 40 °F or less, or they are placed in a freezer.
Q. A plant is approved to operate two 8-hour shifts, and it routinely operates up to 12
hours per shift. It also communicates, in advance, with in-plant inspectors whenever the
schedule is going to exceed the 8 hours. Does the issuance of FSIS Directive 12,700.1 affect this practice?
A. No. If the plant is following the regulatory requirement in 9 CFR 307.4(d)(2)(3) or
381.37(d)(2) and (3) and is notifying the inspection team in advance, the establishment has met its regulatory
responsibilities. FSIS Directive 12,700.1
specifically addresses a situation in which an official establishment fails to
notify inspectors that it will be operating outside its approved hours of inspection and produces
product without the benefit of inspection. The directive provides instructions to FSIS inspectors
regarding enforcement actions if they find that a plant has produced products outside its approved
hours without the benefit of inspection.
Q. How often should the accuracy of the thermocouple thermometer be verified?
A. If the thermometer is being used, the accuracy of the thermometer should be verified
at a minimum of once a month. If the thermometer has been mishandled in some way (dropped on the floor, left in an
extremely hot or cold place), then its accuracy should be verified prior to taking a temperature.
Q. Is a plant required to use a Mercury-in-Glass (MIG) thermometer as a known
standard when performing calibration of a thermometer?
A. No. It's the plant's responsibility to
provide support for the procedure that it uses to calibrate its process-monitoring instruments
(e.g., thermometers) to ensure that the instruments are accurate [9 CFR 417.5(a)(2)]. Use of a certified
MIG thermometer is recognized as an accurate standard; however, plants may use other methods or equipment to
verify accuracy of thermometers.
Q. Is 180 °F water required for sanitizing equipment used during livestock carcass dressing procedures?
A. Plants are required to maintain equipment and utensils in
a sanitary condition so as not to adulterate product (9 CFR 416.3) and to clean and sanitize the equipment and utensils
as frequently as necessary to prevent adulteration [9 CFR 416.4(a)]. When dressing livestock carcasses that are affected
by any disease condition mentioned in 9 CFR 311.16(b) requires sanitization of equipment
using hot water at a minimum of 180 °F. Chemical sanitizers may be used in lieu of 180 °F water
if the requirements of 9 CFR 416.4(c) are met and the chemical sanitizer used provides an equivalent sanitizing effect.
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Small Plant NEWS
Editor: Keith Payne
Production: Joan Lindenberger, Sally Fernandez
Design: Gordon Wilson
Contact: Small Plant News, USDA/FSIS, Aerospace Building,
3rd Floor-Room 405, 14th and Independence Ave., SW, Washington,
DC 20250. 1-800-336-3747