US offers emergency food stamps in 3 flood states

WASHINGTON, June 24 (Reuters) - More than $1.6 million in emergency food stamps have been issued to residents of three states in the U.S. Midwest hit by spring floods, the government said on Tuesday.

Some 4,500 households in Iowa, Indiana and Wisconsin have received the aid, said the Agriculture Department, which runs the program that helps Americans buy food.

During disasters, people may qualify for emergency food stamps if they incur expenses in protecting, repairing or evacuating their homes, or if they lose income. People already enrolled in the program may receive additional benefits.

USDA said it issued a waiver throughout Iowa allowing retailers to sell hot food in exchange for food stamps. Usually, food stamps can be used only to buy groceries.

The emergency food stamps are available in 37 counties in Indiana, 36 counties in Iowa and 19 counties in Wisconsin.

Farmers in flood areas are allowed to move livestock to Conservation Reserve land for 30 days without penalty and with no reduction in their annual rental payment, USDA said. Producers in 26 Iowa counties can keep livestock on Conservation Reserve land until July 27.

Emergency loans are also available to farmers with significant losses. The Emergency Conservation Program will share up to 75 percent of the cost of repairing damaged land.

USDA said a number of grant and loan programs are available to repair damaged homes, businesses and public facilities such as libraries, schools, hospitals, fire stations and police stations. (Reporting by Charles Abbott; editing by Jim Marshall)