Drought emergency declared

Published 12:04 am Saturday, July 14, 2012

Drought relief is on its way for local farmers, thanks to rain and loans offered.



There is drought relief on the horizon for area farmers – both in the form of recent rains, and an announcement that Covington County is among the 33 counties eligible for low-interest federal loans as a result of a federal drought emergency declaration.

Gov. Robert Bentley and Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan made the announcement late Friday afternoon.

“While much of the state has received rain this week, it is not enough to eliminate the severe and extreme drought conditions that many places are experiencing,” Bentley said. “Farmers across Alabama are suffering through what has been an extended drought from last year.”

Bentley expressed his appreciation to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack for his response to this critical situation that affects so many Alabama families.

In a July 12 letter to Gov. Bentley, Secretary Vilsack designated the following 33 counties as “primary natural disaster areas” suffering from severe or extreme drought: Autauga, Baldwin, Barbour, Bibb, Bullock, Butler, Chambers, Chilton, Clay, Cleburne, Coffee, Conecuh, Coosa, Covington, Crenshaw, Dale, Dallas, Elmore, Escambia, Geneva, Henry, Houston, Lee, Lowndes, Macon, Montgomery, Perry, Pike, Randolph, Russell, Talladega, Tallapoosa and Wilcox.

An additional 12 counties in the northern part of the state were named as “contiguous disaster counties” and are also eligible for federal low-interest loans.

“There are many growers of commodity crops such as corn, soybeans, cotton and peanuts, who have suffered damage from the drought,” McMillan said. “Farmers should contact their local office of the Farm Service Agency (FSA) to determine their eligibility and begin the process for loan application.”

Additional counties could be added to the declaration in the coming weeks as the USDA Drought Monitor provides weekly reports on drought conditions. The counties declared as primary natural disaster areas this week have faced severe drought conditions for at least eight consecutive weeks or extreme drought conditions at any time during the growing season.

McMillan said that farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of a secretarial disaster declaration to apply for emergency loan assistance. FSA will consider each emergency loan application based on objective standards with regard to production losses, security available and repayment ability.

Locally, the FSA office is located on 23952 Ala. Hwy. 55 and may be reached by phone at 334-222-3519. Doyle Barnes serves as the office’s executive director.