2006-08-31 / News

Irvin announces disaster designation for Georgia

Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Tommy Irvin announced today that U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns has designated 155 Georgia counties as agricultural disaster areas due to agricultural damage from the effects of drought and excessive heat. Governor Perdue submitted his request for the Secretarial Disaster Designation August 9 after the State Emergency Board reviewed and approved damage assessment reports for the counties.

"I am pleased that Secretary Johanns acted quickly on the Governor's request," Irvin said. "Although a Secretarial Disaster Designation only enables farmers in qualifying counties to apply for emergency loan assistance from the Farm Service Agency, this action will help at least some of our farmers to recover from the losses they have incurred due to the ongoing drought and extreme heat they have experienced this year." To receive a disaster designation, a county must have incurred a loss of 30 percent or more in dollar value for all crops, or of a single crop or group of crops, such as all feed crops or all fruit crops.

Once a county receives a disaster designation by the Secretary of Agriculture, all farmers in the county become eligible to apply to the USDA Farm Service Agency for low-interest emergency loans. Although all farmers are eligible to apply, they do not automatically qualify for the loans. Each farmer must meet individual eligibility requirements.

Fannin, Gilmer, Towns and Union counties had deferred submitting damage assessment reports until harvest and therefore were not included in the designation. However, farmers in these four counties also are also eligible to apply for loans as the counties are contiguous to counties included in the disaster designation.

The Farm Service Agency considers each loan application on its own merits, taking into account the extent of losses, security available and repayment ability. Local FSA offices can provide affected farmers in the designated counties with further information and assist them in completing loan applications.

According to the University of Georgia Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development, state agricultural losses due to drought and excessive heat since March 2006 are estimated to total $819.4 million. Crops experiencing the greatest loss are: cotton $239.5 million, peanuts $101.4 million, corn $40.1 million, and tobacco $25.3 million. Hay and forage losses of $107.6 million and pasture losses of $224.3 million have impacted cattle production throughout the state. Projected losses for the pecan crop are $49.0 million. The balance of production losses are for vegetables, melons, fruits, and broilers. Total economic output impact losses due to drought conditions are estimated to range from $965.0 million to $1.4 billion.

Irvin noted that he contacted Georgia's Congressional Delegation in early August to request that funds for Georgia's farmers be included in any final package for disaster relief approved by the House and Senate. The Appropriations Bill expected to be considered by the U.S. Senate next month includes $4 billion in emergency funding for crop and livestock farmers nationwide in response to natural disasters.

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