Grants from the Hurricane Assistance Program were authorized by the Agricultural Assistance Act of 2003 passed by Congress last February. The storms, Isidore and Lili, damaged thousands of acres of sugarcane and processing plants along the Louisiana Gulf Coast.

"These payments will benefit those Louisiana sugar producers and processors who suffered severe losses from last year's unpredictable and extremely damaging weather conditions," said Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman, who announced the funding.

USDA will make payments to sugarcane processors for the 2002 crop losses caused by the storms. Processors must share the payments with producers based upon their pre-established purchase agreements. These agreements divide the sugar revenue once the crop is sold.

Payments will be based on estimated sugar losses for affected farm tracts within Louisiana and begin soon after the information is received from the processors.

Applicants must be sugarcane processors located in Louisiana who are eligible to obtain loans under section 156(a) of the Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act of 1996, 7 U.S.C. 7272(a). Applications must be submitted in accordance with requirements and deadlines in a Federal Register notice published Aug. 7.

USDA has developed a Web site that provides producers with one convenient location for details on new and existing disaster assistance. To view the Web site, go to http://disaster.fsa.usda.gov/.

e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com