WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has designated three counties in North Carolina as primary natural disaster areas due to damages and losses caused by frost, freezes, and a hailstorm that occurred April 5-13 in two neighboring South Carolina counties.
The counties in North Carolina are Cleveland, Polk and Rutheford.
The counties were designated natural disaster areas Aug. 3, making all qualified farm operators in the designated areas 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 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.
Recently, USDA effectively reduced the interest rate for EM loans from 3.75 percent to 2.25 percent, and reduced the payment reduction on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands qualified for emergency haying and grazing in 2012 from 25 percent to 10 percent. USDA also announced that it will allow additional acres under CRP to be used for emergency haying or grazing.
The action will allow lands that are not yet classified as "under severe drought" but that are "abnormally dry" to be used for haying and grazing.
In addition, USDA is allowing producers to modify current Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) contracts to allow for grazing, livestock watering, and other conservation activities to address drought conditions, and has authorized haying and grazing of Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) easement areas in drought-affected areas where haying and grazing is consistent with conservation of wildlife habitat and wetlands.
Additional information is also available online at http://disaster.fsa.usda.gov.