The USDA designated much of California a drought disaster area this week, clearing the way for growers to seek emergency loans. The USDA designated 21 counties in the state as primary natural disaster areas because of losses caused by drought that officially occurred from Jan. 1, 2009, and is continuing.
Those counties are: Alameda, Marin, San Joaquin, Colusa, Mariposa, San Luis Obispo, Contra Costa, Mendocino, Santa Clara, Inyo, Merced, Sonoma, Kern, Mono, Stanislaus, Kings, Riverside, Sutter, Lake, San Benito, and Tehama.
"President Obama and I understand these conditions caused severe damage to the area and serious harm to farms in California and we want to help," said USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack in a press release.
Farm operators in the following counties in California also qualify for natural disaster benefits because their counties are contiguous. Those counties are: Alpine, Monterey, Santa Cruz, Amador, Napa, Shasta, Butte, Orange, Solano, Calaveras, Placer, Trinity, Fresno, Plumas, Tulare, Glenn, Sacramento, Tuolumne, Humboldt, San Bernardino,Ventura, Imperial, San Diego, Yolo, Los Angeles, San Mateo, Yuba, Madera, and Santa Barbara.
Qualified farm operators in the designated areas are eligible for low interest emergency (EM) loans from USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA), provided eligibility requirements are met. Farmers in eligible counties have eight months 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.
USDA has also made other programs available to assist farmers and ranchers, including the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Program (SURE), which was approved as part of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008; the Emergency Conservation Program; Federal Crop Insurance; and the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program. Interested farmers may contact their local USDA Service Centers for further information on eligibility requirements and application procedures for these and other programs. Additional information is also available online at: http://disaster.fsa.usda.gov.