Farmers in the local area are eligible for low-interest loans through the U.S. Department of Agriculture because of the year’s tumultuous weather.
The federal agency labeled 49 Ohio counties — including Allen and Mercer counties — as primary agricultural natural disaster areas. The designation opens farmers up for eligibility for the loans through the USDA’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.
“If there are any problems occurring on the farm, individuals can come to their local FSA office to sign up,” spokesperson Christina Reed said. “If 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.”
Farmers in the eligible
See USDA, Page 5A
counties have eight months from the designation date — Sept. 7 — 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.
“These declarations do happen, it just depends on the weather,” Reed said. “In 2011, you have to admit it’s been a very interesting year.”
The designations were supported by Ohio’s U.S. senators — Democrat Sherrod Brown and Republican Rob Portman.
“I 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,” Portman said. “Some 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) Kasich’s request for a disaster designation has been met.”
Brown also supported the designation for farmers, who represent one of the top industries in the state.
“Ohio producers whose livelihood is threatened by no fault of their own deserve relief,” Brown said. “The USDA disaster designation is the right decision for Ohio’s farmers and for our state’s largest industry.”
Managing Editor William Laney contributed to this story.