The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development Under Secretary Dallas Tonsager and Acting Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Michael Scuse will begin today a two-day tour of Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Missouri, to meet with those affected by recent disasters.

"Our hearts go out to all of those affected by the disasters," said Scuse. "Our first-hand assessments will allow us to identify the unique farm safety net and rural community development needs of the impacted region."

USDA agencies have been working for weeks with state and local officials, as well as individuals, businesses, farmers and ranchers, as they begin the process of helping to get people back on their feet.

USDA offers a variety of resources for states and individuals affected by the recent disasters. Individuals can also apply for other types of federal disaster assistance at www.disasterassistance.gov.

In rural communities, USDA's Rural Development will continue to work with existing individual and community borrowers that have been affected by a natural disaster to help them with their loans. With respect to loans guaranteed by Rural Development, borrowers should initially contact their lender for assistance.

Rural Development provides FEMA with regular information as to vacant units in multi-family housing complexes financed by the agency, and following a Presidential disaster declaration, FEMA can assist with placement and vouchers to cover short-term rental costs. Housing and business assistance programs are available over the longer term to help finance repair and replacement of homes and businesses.

USDA's Farm Service Agency provides emergency loans through the Emergency Loan Program to help producers recover from production and physical losses due to natural disasters.

Producers will be eligible for these loans as soon as their county is declared a Presidential or Secretarial disaster county.