JEFFERSON CITY, MISSOURI - The U.S. Department of Agriculture has begun the process of assessing damage throughout areas of Missouri affected by severe storms and flooding in recent weeks. Counties throughout the state have until May 20 to report damages, losses to the USDA.

"Under Governor Nixon's leadership, the State of Missouri has connected with our partners on the local, regional and federal levels to assist those affected by severe flooding in southern Missouri," said Director of Agriculture Dr. Jon Hagler. "It is vital that we work to rebuild the lives and livelihoods of those affected, and beginning the damage assessment process is key to moving forward." The Governor's request for damage assessments is the first step in the process of declaring counties primary disaster areas. Primary disaster counties are those that lose at least 30 percent of the estimated yield of a single crop, or where individual farmers suffer production losses greater than 30 percent.

A disaster designation would allow eligible farmers to be considered for assistance from the USDA's Farm Service Agency. Farmers who qualify would receive FSA emergency loans or assistance from the federal Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments Program. Affected farmers would apply to FSA, which considers each application individually on its merits. Farmers in counties contiguous to primary disaster areas also could be eligible for assistance.

The damage assessment process is key to determining the availability of assistance through specific federal and state programs.

Governor Nixon requested damage assessments in 56 Missouri counties. Those counties are Barry, Barton, Bollinger, Butler, Camden, Cape Girardeau, Carter, Cedar, Christian, Crawford, Dade, Dallas, Dent, Douglas, Dunklin, Franklin, Gasconade, Greene, Hickory, Howell, Iron, Jasper, Jefferson, Laclede, Lawrence, Madison, Maries, McDonald, Miller, Mississippi, New Madrid, Newton, Oregon, Osage, Ozark, Pemiscot, Perry, Phelps, Polk, Pulaski, Reynolds, Ripley, St. Francois, Ste. Genevieve, St. Louis, Scott, Shannon, Stoddard, Stone, Taney, Texas, Vernon, Washington, Wayne, Webster and Wright.

For the latest information on flooding and the wide range of assistance the state is providing, visit MO.gov. For more information on the Missouri Department of Agriculture and its programs, visit mda.mo.gov.