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Farmers in the local area are eligible for low-interest loans through the U.S. Department of Agriculture because of the yearâ€™s tumultuous weather.
The federal agency labeled 49 Ohio counties â€” including Allen and Mercer counties â€” as primary agricultural natural disaster areas. The designation opens farmers up for eligibility for the loans through the USDAâ€™s Farm Service Agency (FSA). The counties were selected because of the flooding, flash flooding, excessive heat and tornadoes that took place Feb. 2 to July 31 across the state. Farmers in Auglaize, Hardin, Logan and Shelby counties, which are four of 38 contiguous counties, also are eligible because they border a primary county.
â€śIf there are any problems occurring on the farm, individuals can come to their local FSA office to sign up,â€ť spokesperson Christina Reed said. â€śIf they need to sign up for a loan, they can. Down the road, what this does is since this designation happened, in the future, Congress can come back and say that in fiscal year 2011 there was a bad enough disaster that we are opening up other programs.â€ť
Farmers in the eligible
See USDA, Page 5A
counties have eight months from the designation date â€” Sept. 7 â€” to apply for loans to help cover part of their actual losses. The FSA will consider each application on its own merits and will take into consideration a variety of factors, including extent of losses and the ability to repay the loan.
Other programs also may be available to local farmers. Reed encouraged farmers who may have experienced a loss to contact their local FSA office.
â€śThese declarations do happen, it just depends on the weather,â€ť Reed said. â€śIn 2011, you have to admit itâ€™s been a very interesting year.â€ť
The designations were supported by Ohioâ€™s U.S. senators â€” Democrat Sherrod Brown and Republican Rob Portman.
â€śI believe federal disaster assistance is necessary to help the agricultural communities in Ohio affected by severe storms recover, rebuild and get back on their feet,â€ť Portman said. â€śSome of these areas that were hit hard were already distressed due to high unemployment and the lack of infrastructure to handle weather related emergencies. I am glad Gov. (John) Kasichâ€™s request for a disaster designation has been met.â€ť
Brown also supported the designation for farmers, who represent one of the top industries in the state.
â€śOhio producers whose livelihood is threatened by no fault of their own deserve relief,â€ť Brown said. â€śThe USDA disaster designation is the right decision for Ohioâ€™s farmers and for our stateâ€™s largest industry.â€ť
Managing Editor William Laney contributed to this story.