Drought conditions may have improved throughout the Southwest in recent months, but the impact of four years of dry conditions continues to affect farmers and ranchers in the region.
To help mitigate some of the losses and hardships the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently designated multiple counties in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Arkansas as primary disaster areas due to damages caused by recent drought.
Many more counties qualify for natural disaster relief as contiguous counties to those listed as primary.
USDA has designated 14 Texas counties as primary natural disaster areas. These include: Angeline, Burleson, Caldwell, Guadalupe, Harrison, Lee, McLennan, Nacogdoches, Panola, Rusk, San Augustine, Shelby, Trinity and Williamson.
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Qualifying contiguous counties include: Bastrop, Bell, Bexar, Bosque, Brazos, Burnet, Cherokee, Comal, Coryell, Falls, Fayette, Gonzales, Gregg, Hays, Hill, Houston, Jasper, Limestone, Marion, Milam, Polk, Robertson, Sabine, San Jacinto, Smith, Travis, Tyler, Upshur, Walker, Washington and Wilson.
Farmers and ranchers in Caddo, De Soto and Sabine parishes in Louisiana also qualify for natural disaster assistance because their parishes are contiguous.
Oklahoma disaster designations
Nine Oklahoma Counties designated as primary disaster areas due to damages and losses caused by heavy rainfall, flooding, high winds and tornadoes that occurred from May 1, 2015, through June 30, 2015 include: Bryan, Carter, Choctaw, Le Flore, Love, McCurtain, Marshall, Muskogee and Sequoyah.
Contiguous Oklahoma counties also qualified for natural disaster assistance include: Adair, Atoka, Cherokee, Garvin, Haskell, Jefferson, Johnston, Latimer, McIntosh, Murray, Okmulgee, Pushmataha, Stephens and Wagoner.
Farmers and ranchers in the following counties in Arkansas and Texas also qualify for natural disaster assistance because their counties are contiguous to designated Oklahoma counties. Those counties are: Arkansas—Crawford, Little River, Polk, Scott, Sebastian and Sevier— Texas—Bowie, Cooke, Fannin, Grayson, Lamar, Montague and Red River.
Farm operators in the designated areas are 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.
“Our hearts go out to those Oklahoma 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 Oklahoma producers that USDA stands with you and your communities when severe weather and natural disasters threaten to disrupt your livelihood.”
Additional programs available to assist farmers and ranchers include the Emergency Conservation Program, The Livestock Forage Disaster Program, the Livestock Indemnity Program, the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program, and the Tree 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 at http://disaster.fsa.usda.gov.