USDA Responds to Weather Damage
Farmers and ranchers throughout the nation are dealing with extreme weather situations this year. While Washington state has been spared the worst of the drought and fires suffered in other parts of the country, the region has experienced storms throughout the state. Farm Service Agency Acting County Executive Director Lisa Ruff said Yakima and Kittitas County farmers and ranchers, who suffer weather-related losses, may also receive federal assistance.
Emergency Loan funds can be used to restore or replace essential property, pay production expenses for the disaster year, pay family living expenses, reorganize the farming operation, and to refinance certain debts. Agricultural producers can borrow up to $500,000. The term of the loan is based on the repayment ability of the applicant, not to exceed 20 years for production losses or 40 years for losses to real estate.
To assist farmers and ranchers affected by drought, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack opened additional acres under the Conservation Reserve Program to be used for haying or grazing under emergency conditions. Land in which all, or a portion, of the county is considered abnormally dry or higher according to the U.S. Drought Monitor is now eligible for emergency haying or grazing. Previously, emergency haying and grazing was only available in counties reaching severe on the Drought Monitor.
Normally land in CRP is not hayed or grazed. Landowners enter into a ten-year contract in which they plant vegetation for conservation purposes. They forgo revenue from agricultural production in return for annual rental payments. The annual rental payment on CRP acres used for emergency haying or grazing will be reduced by 10 percent in 2012, instead of the 25 percent reduction used in past emergencies.
Haying and grazing will only be allowed following the local primary nesting season, which has already passed in Washington. Especially sensitive lands such as wetlands, stream buffers and rare habitats will not be eligible.
Adams, Benton, Douglas, Franklin, Grant, Kittitas and Yakima counties are currently eligible for CRP haying or grazing under this provision. CRP landowners in these counties may use the emergency haying and grazing option for their own use or to sell the hay or lease the ground for grazing. Landowners need to contact the Farm Service Agency prior to haying or grazing.
Producers who suffered damage from recent thunderstorms may qualify for benefits under the Emergency Conservation Program (ECP). ECP can provide up to 75 percent of the cost to restore cropland damaged by runoff to the extent it cannot be repaired with normal tillage equipment. The agency may also provide partial funding to restore conservation practices damaged by flooding. Producers should consult with the Farm Service Agency prior to beginning restoration.