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Thursday, April 24, 2014

USDA Designates Mariposa County Among Counties in California as Designated Disaster Areas Due to Drought

WASHINGTON, July 3, 2013 - The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has designated five counties in California as primary natural disaster areas due to damages and losses caused by the recent drought.
The counties are:
Mariposa
Merced
San Benito
Stanislaus
Tuolumne

"Our hearts go out to those California farmers and ranchers affected by 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 California 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 California also qualify for natural disaster assistance because their counties are contiguous. Those counties are:
Alameda
Calaveras
Madera
Monterey
Alpine
Fresno
Mono
San Joaquin
Santa Cruz
Santa Clara

All counties listed above were designated natural disaster areas July 3, 2013, 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 remains committed to helping the thousands of farm families and businesses struggling with natural disasters. Actions taken by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in 2012 to provide assistance to producers impacted by the drought included:
  • Extended emergency grazing on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres, freeing up a record 2.8 million acres and as much as $200 million in forage and feed for ranchers during a challenging time.
  • Purchased $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.
  • Reduced the emergency loan rate, from 3.75 percent to 2.250 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.
  • USDA worked with crop insurance companies to provide flexibility to farmers, and one-third of all policyholders took advantage of the extended payment period.
  • Authorized $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.
  • Transferred $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.
  • Authorized 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.
  • Lowered 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.
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