Tuesday, December 11th, 2007
Federal disaster relief may be available to local farmers
USDA Acting Secretary makes disaster designation
By Nancy Allen
Qualifying farmers in all 88 Ohio counties are eligible for federal disaster relief, after recent action by USDA Acting Secretary Chuck Connor.
According to a news release from the office of U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, Connor declared a disaster emergency designation for 73 counties in Ohio. The remaining 15 counties also are eligible for aid since they are contiguous to the disaster area.
The disaster designation makes available low interest emergency loans and debt restructuring programs through USDA or Small Business Administration programs, the release states. Interested farmers should contact their county Farm Service Agency (FSA) office for more information.
The statewide disaster designation was based on production losses due to a spring freeze, summer drought and in some places flooding.
In Mercer County, the spring freeze had a devastating effect on orchard crops such as apples, peaches and pears and initially on the alfalfa hay crop, said county FSA Executive Director Chris Gibbs. The freezing weather resulted in many alfalfa hay producers getting half of the expected yield from their first cutting. Drought conditions in the summer further affected the hay, reducing the second cutting by as much as 80 percent, he said.
"Fortunately two things happened later in summer and early fall that provided a significant recovery for the (hay) and that was rains that came in late in July and throughout August," Gibbs said. "And the second thing is the killing frost didn't happen until into November."
Those two factors resulted in hay producers being generally satisfied with their 2007 crop yields based on the difficulties they had, Gibbs said, adding that they ended up harvesting between 80 and 90 percent of their usual yield for hay.
With this particular designation, county producers are eligible for low interest emergency loans. Producers are eligible for the loans only if they can show they suffered at least a 30 percent loss in production after crop insurance, according to farm loan manager Marla Koerner. The deadline to apply for the emergency low interest loans is July 28.
The loans can be used to pay for next year's operating expenses, for losses incurred this year as a result of crop losses and to restructure debt. In order to be eligible for any FSA loan, a producer must have been denied a loan from his or her local lender.
Gibbs predicted there would be little interest in the emergency loans because not many producers suffered enough losses to quality for them.
Gibbs cautioned that his estimation should not prohibit any producers with questions as to whether they are eligible or not to call or stop by the FSA office in Celina.
The Mercer County FSA office's phone number is 419-586-3149.