Drought prompts natural disaster designation

On Nov. 26, Charles F. Conner, acting secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), designated 73 Ohio counties as agricultural natural disaster areas. Madison County is among them.

The designation is based on crop condition assessments provided this year by Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices. Those assessments reported crop damages and losses caused by drought and extreme heat conditions that started April 15.

The natural disaster designation means certain farmers and other agricultural producers are eligible for low-interest emergency loans from the USDA’s FSA.

“FSA will consider each application on its own merit by taking into account the extent of losses, security available, and repayment ability,” Conner said in a letter to Gov. Ted Strickland.

The FSA office that handles loan applications for Madison County is located in Fayette County.

“Just how many people in our area will be eligible for loans, I don’t know,” said Darren Metzger, farm loan manager in Fayette County. “Some people ended up with good yields in spite of the drought conditions, but there may be some pockets that didn’t do so well.”

To qualify for an emergency loan, a farmer must be unable to obtain credit from commercial sources. Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of declaration to apply for loans to help cover part or all of their losses.

According to information provided by Metzger, emergency loans can be used to:

• restore or replace essential property;

• pay all or part of production costs associated with the disaster year;

• pay essential family living expenses;

• reorganize the farming operation; and

• refinance certain debts.

For more information, farmers should contact the Fayette County Farm Service Agency and ask for Darren Metzger, 740-335-0890.

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