07/17/12 Julia A. Wickard, State Executive Director of USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) in Indiana announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has designated 36 counties in Indiana as primary natural disaster areas due to losses caused by extreme drought. Marshall County is one of the 36 counties to be designated a natural disaster are.  Other counties in our area include Elkhart, Fulton, Kosciusko, and Saint Joseph.

“Indiana FSA and its employees are committed to helping farmers navigate the multitude of programs that may be available in eligible counties,” said Wickard.  “The Summer of 2012 will not be long forgotten by those producers and their families that were negatively impacted by severe dry weather. USDA is here to assist.”

Farm operators in 19 other counties in Indiana also qualify for natural disaster assistance because their counties are contiguous to the designated counties. Those counties near Marshall include Starke and Laporte.

The counties were designated natural disaster areas on July 12, 2012, making all qualified farm operators in the designated areas eligible for low interest emergency (EM) 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.  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.  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 http://www.usda.gov/disaster.