For the past several weeks, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has announced dozens or even hundreds of additional counties across the U.S. that have been declared primary drought disaster areas. What’s it mean? If you’re a farmer worried about crop loss or early livestock sales, can you get help?
An agricultural disaster declaration for your county – or a county adjacent to yours – means that USDA guaranteed, low-interest emergency loans will be available to help farmers and ranchers meet cashflow requirements in the face of lost crops or livestock. The loan program is administered through USDA’s Farm Service Agency, meaning you can assistance at the state or local level. Farmers and ranchers in declared counties can get help. In some cases, there may be FSA emergency programs available in addition to the emergency loans.
A word about declarations. Although there are at least four ways in which a county may be declared an agricultural disaster area, in the case of this year’s drought, all of the declarations have come from Vilsack in his role as USDA Secretary. When he declares a county, it is a “primary” declaration. This is important because counties contiguous to primary declaration counties are considered eligible for assistance as well. You may hear your county a “secondary” declaration area — that means your county is adjacent to a county where USDA Secretary declared the disaster. Your local or state FSA office can answer questions about eligibility.
Ohio FSA Executive Director Steve Maurer told the Toledo Blade earlier this week that he expects most Ohio counties to eventually be declared. Many of Ohio’s extreme western counties were secondary declared disaster areas just a month ago, but as of today have received their own primary declarations — increasing the number of secondary declarations across the state.
To the left, you can see a Ohio’s portion of the latest USDA Drought Disaster Map. Red counties are primary, orange are secondary. By clicking on the map you can read a USDA FSA fact sheet about the agricultural disaster process and how you can use it to mitigate losses on your own farm.