August 21, 2014

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Northwest Ohio counties designated as disaster areas

On Wednesday, Aug. 8, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that it would designate Williams County, Ohio, as a primary natural disaster area and Defiance, Fulton and Henry counties will be designated as contiguous counties.

These designations allow for farm operators within these counties to be considered for certain assistance from the Farm Service Agency (FSA). Defiance and Fulton counties have already been receiving assistance from FSA, however Henry County is now eligible.

Prior to the USDA announcement, Congressman Bob Latta (R-Bowling Green) and Ohio Agriculture Director David T. Daniels toured farms throughout northwest Ohio Aug. 6 to view areas of distress due to the drought.

During the tour Congressman Latta and Director Daniels saw firsthand the impact on local corn, soybean, and tomato crops in Fulton County and a dairy farm, which milks 180 cows, in Defiance County.

“While there is no doubt that this drought has had a harmful effect on our farmers and livestock producers, these conditions present a larger problem on an economic scale. Ohio’s food and agriculture industry yields $105 billion to the state’s economy,” said Latta. “As one of the largest agricultural districts in the state, many of the communities in the Fifth Congressional District, especially rural communities, are supported by the farms and small businesses within the agricultural industry,” Latta continued.

“To the non-farmer, a drought means brown grass and the inconvenience of having to water gardens and flowers. To the farmer, as we saw in our tour, it means thousands of dollars invested in a season’s crop that may yield next to nothing or livestock feed costs that are so high many will not be able to afford to feed their herds and flocks. Without rain or relief, I fear some will not be able to farm again next year,” said Daniels.

The latest drought monitor has counties within the Fifth Congressional District of Ohio experiencing moderate to severe drought conditions. The most recent USDA’s crop bulletin reported that 50 percent of Ohio’s corn crops were poor to very poor.

On Wednesday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack signed disaster designations for an additional 44 counties in 12 states as primary natural disaster areas due to damage and losses caused by drought and excessive heat. These counties dare in the states of Arkansas, Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma and South Dakota.

During the 2012 crop year, USDA so far has designated 1,628 unduplicated counties across 33 states as disaster areas – 1,496 due to drought – making all qualified farm operators in the areas eligible for low-interest emergency loans.

The U.S. Drought Monitor indicates that 66 percent of the nation’s hay acreage is in an area experiencing drought, while approximately 73 percent of the nation’s cattle acreage is in an area experiencing drought. During the week ending Aug. 5, USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) reported that U.S. soybeans rated 39 percent very poor to poor, surpassing the lowest conditions observed during the drought of 1988. NASS also reported that 50 percent of the U.S. corn crop was rated very poor to poor.

Vilsack highlighted that USDA will utilize nearly $16 million in financial and technical assistance to immediately help crop and livestock producers in 19 states cope with the adverse impacts of the historic drought. In addition, USDA will initiate a transfer of $14 million in unobligated program funds into the Emergency Conservation Program. These funds can be used to assist in moving water to livestock in need, providing emergency forage for livestock, and rehabilitating lands severely impacted by the drought. Together these efforts should provide nearly $30 million to producers struggling with drought conditions.

In Washington, President Obama convened his White House Rural Council to review Executive Branch response actions and to develop additional policy initiatives to assist drought-stricken Americans. Following the meeting, the White House announced a number of new measures the Administration is taking, including USDA’s assistance for livestock and crop producers, the National Credit Union Administration’s increased capacity for lending to customers including farmers, and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s emergency waivers for federal truck weight regulations and hours of service requirements to drought-stricken communities.