FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 15, 2005
Contact: Cornelius Blanding or Jackie Ward  (404) 765-0991
Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund's Katrina Relief & Recovery Program
The Work Required for Relief & Recovery in Rural Southern Communities is Immense
 

ATLANTA....When the waters and winds receded after Katrina's wrath, many affected rural communities suddenly lost hope of developing and achieving any control over their own food systems. It is clear that the destruction of the infrastructure has almost eliminated any chance of recovery without intense and committed intervention.  "It is also evident that the work for recovery will require short and long term commitment to rebuilding communities, rebuilding a sense of ownership, and, importantly, rebuilding pride and the spirit of  hope" said Ralph Paige Executive Director of the Federation/LAF.

On Monday, August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast Region upsetting the lives and livelihoods of thousands of people ­ including Federation/LAF member farmers, families and surrounding rural communities - as well as devastating the urban communities of New Orleans, Gulf Port and Biloxi. The impact of the affects of this hurricane is massive at all levels. For starters many families have been disrupted, their communities destroyed, their income base suddenly non-existent, and their infrastructure devastated. An unknown result of the hurricane might be an increase in the loss of black owned land which was already in serious jeopardy. (Go to http://www.federationsoutherncoop.com/katrinaphoto.htm for photos of some of the destruction in Mississippi.)

In addition, limited resources are being stretched in Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana. Throughout the region the community spirit of  helping and giving to the affected victims has been evident.  Yet, many of the farmers, poor people and rural communities are absorbing the brunt of the fall out of the Katrina disaster by taking in displaced people who have lost utilities, water, housing and electricity. More resources to help the helpers is necessary.

Throughout the gulf coast area family farmers had their homes, farm buildings, equipment and crops destroyed by high winds and driven rain.  Trees were toppled and utility services were disrupted.  In many cases, especially in isolated rural communities, power and phone service has not yet been restored even weeks after the storm.  Farmers also lost major direct and commercial marketing outlets that were destroyed in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast.

Several Federation/LAF related facilities and cooperatives were damaged by the storm, including roofs at the Rural Training Center in Epes, AL and the Mississippi Association of Cooperatives office in Jackson, MS; the packing facility at Indian Springs Farmers Cooperative in Petal, MS; Beat 4 Farmers Marketing Center in Macon, MS; the East Mississippi Federal Credit Union branches in Louisville and Macon, MS; Pritchard Federal Credit Union; Crescent City Market Farmers Market; and the Bay Gall Co-op.

The Crescent City Farmers Market in New Orleans that served as a lucrative outlet for our Mississippi farmers was totaled. Casinos in Biloxi, Mississippi, that were also good marketing outlets for our farmers, were completely destroyed.

The Federation/LAF has partnered with various community based, government and private organizations, such as the 21st Century Youth Leadership Movement, Oxfam America, Farm-Aid, Cooperative Development Foundation, Southern Partners Fund, Bert & Mary Meyer Foundation, Sharing, Inc. and others to provide shelter, food, direct financial & technical assistance and support to farmers, families and evacuees affected by Hurricane Katrina.

Much needed 3,000 lbs. of meat was delivered on September 8, 2005 from Patchwork Farms - a member cooperative of the Federation in Missouri - to the 21st Century Leadership Training Camp in Suttle, Alabama (Perry County) to feed evacuees from New Orleans. The camp is a relief center for displaced victims. The Federation/LAF coordinated the contribution and delivery at the affiliated site.  (Go to http://www.federationsoutherncoop.com/katrinaphoto.htm for photos of this delivery.)

Other relief efforts are now in place in Alabama and Mississippi, In fact, the following six Disaster Relief Distribution Centers have been established in order to receive, store and distribute food, water, clothing, toiletries and supplies to identified people and communities affected by the hurricane:

1. Federation of Southern Cooperativesı Rural Training & Research Center in Epes, AL
2. 21st Century Leadership Training Camp in Suttle, AL
3. Indian Springs Farmers Cooperative in Petal, MS
4. Mississippi Center for Cooperatives in Jackson, MS
5. Shreveport Federal Credit Union in Shreveport, LA
6. Love, Joy, Peace Ministries in Petal, MS

The Federation/LAFıs administrative office in East Point, Georgia is the coordination and logistical point for the relief efforts.  Calls and requests are taken, handled and distributed from this office. For more information please call Cornelius Blanding or Jackie Ward at 404 765 0991 and go to the Federation's website - www.federation.coop - for weekly updates. Tax deductible donations toward this effort can be given from our website or sent to Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund, 2769 Church Street, East Point GA 30344.

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Note: The Federation/LAF, now in its 38th year,  assists Black family farmers across the South with farm management, debt restructuring, alternative crop suggestions, marketing expertise and a whole range of services to ensure family farm survivability. 
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