Wednesday, December 12, 2012
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Tennessee: USDA Designates 3 Counties as Natural Disaster Areas

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has designated three counties in Tennessee as primary natural disaster areas due to damages and losses caused by drought and excessive heat that occurred April 1 – Aug. 31, 2012.

The counties are:

Putnam Van Buren White

“Our hearts go out to those Tennessee farmers and ranchers affected by the recent natural disasters,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “President Obama and I are committed to ensuring that agriculture remains a bright spot in our nation’s economy by sustaining the successes of America’s farmers, ranchers, and rural communities through these difficult times. We’re also telling Tennessee producers that USDA stands with you and your communities when severe weather and natural disasters threaten to disrupt your livelihood.”

Farmers and ranchers in the following counties in Tennessee also qualify for natural disaster assistance because their counties are contiguous. Those counties are:

Bledsoe Cumberland De Kalb Fentress
Jackson Overton Sequatchie Smith
Warren

All counties listed above were designated natural disaster areas Dec. 12, 2012, 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.

The Obama Administration is committed to helping the thousands of farm families and businesses who continue to struggle with the 2012 drought. Actions by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to provide assistance to producers impacted by the drought include:

Extended emergency grazing on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres, freeing up forage and feed for ranchers as they look to recover from this challenging time. Intent to purchase up to $170 million of pork, lamb, chicken, and catfish for federal food nutrition assistance programs, including food banks, to help relieve pressure on American livestock producers and bring the nation’s meat supply in line with demand. Reducing the emergency loan rate, from 3.75 percent to 2.25 percent, as well as making emergency loans available earlier in the season.

Allowing haying or grazing of cover crops without impacting the insurability of planted 2013 spring crops. Authorizing $16 million in existing funds from the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP) and Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to target states experiencing exceptional and extreme drought. Initiating transfer of $14 million in unobligated program funds into the Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) to help farmers and ranchers rehabilitate farmland damaged by natural disasters and for carrying out emergency water conservation measures in periods of severe drought.

Authorizing 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. Lowering the penalty on CRP acres used for emergency haying or grazing, from 25 percent to 10 percent in 2012. Simplified the Secretarial disaster designation process and reduced the time it takes to designate counties affected by disasters by 40 percent.

Additional programs available to assist farmers and ranchers include the Emergency Conservation Program, Federal Crop Insurance, and the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program. Interested farmers may contact their local USDA Service Centers for further information on eligibility requirements and application procedures for these and other programs. Additional information is also available online here.

Secretary Vilsack also reminds producers that the department’s authority to operate the five disaster assistance programs authorized by the 2008 Farm Bill expired on Sept. 30, 2011.This includes SURE; the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP); the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees, and Farm-Raised Fish (ELAP); the Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP); and the Tree Assistance Program (TAP). Production losses due to disasters occurring after Sept. 30, 2011, are not eligible for disaster program coverage.

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