Due to losses from extreme drought, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) designated 12 additional counties as primary natural disaster areas on Aug. 15. Additionally, seven more have been designated as contiguous natural disaster areas.
With these designations, all 92 counties in Indiana are eligible for some form of disaster relief from the USDA.
"Today with the U.S. Drought Monitor fast track designation process, all 92 counties have been declared primary or contiguous natural disaster areas," said Julia Wickard, state executive director of USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA). "This is good news for Indiana farmers as they all qualify for USDA low interest emergency loans.
"At this time no other disaster assistance is available as the disaster programs in the 2008 Farm Bill authorized by Congress expired in September 2011. So, until Congress moves forward on a new Farm Bill the only relief is low interest emergency loans."
Counties designated as primary disaster areas are highlighted in red on the inset map. Contiguous disaster areas are designated in gray.
All qualified farm operators in the designated areas are eligible for low interest emergency loans from FSA, provided eligibility requirements are met.
Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of the declaration to apply for loans to help cover part of their actual losses.
Putnam County was designated a disaster area on July 19, making the deadline for local farmers March 19, 2012.
FSA will consider each loan application on its own merits, taking into account the extent of losses, security available and repayment ability. FSA has a variety of programs, in addition to the EM loan program, to help eligible farmers recover from adversity.
Recent changes in the disaster program will provide faster and more flexible assistance to farmers devastated by natural disasters.
There are three significant improvements related to secretarial disaster designations: a final rule that simplifies the process for secretarial disaster designations and will result in a 40 percent reduction in processing time for most counties affected by disasters; a reduced interest rate for emergency loans that effectively lowers the current rate from 3.75 percent to 2.25 percent; and a payment reduction on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands qualified for emergency haying and grazing in 2012, from 25 to 10 percent.
USDA encourages all farmers to contact their crop insurance companies and local FSA offices, as applicable, to report damages to crops or livestock loss.
The Greencastle FSA office is located at 1007 Millpond Lane, Suite C, and can be reached at 653-5716.
In addition, USDA reminds livestock producers to keep thorough records of losses, including additional expenses for such things as feed purchased due to lost supplies.
Additional resources to help farmers deal with drought may be found at www.usda.gov/disaster.