USDA offers drought aid to farmers, ranchers

Loans available in Crook, Deschutes, 13 other counties

USDA offering drought aid

Ranchers and farmers in Crook, Deschutes and 13 other Oregon counties touched by drought are eligible for low-cost loans to cover some of their losses, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Thursday.

The declaration names six counties — Jackson, Klamath, Lake, Lane, Malheur and Harney — as “primary natural disaster areas,” that are eligible for further relief. The Livestock Forage Disaster Program, for example, pays eligible ranchers for loss of grazing land due to drought.

However, Crook, Deschutes and seven other counties contiguous to the primary disaster areas are now eligible only for the emergency loan program, said Farm Service Agency spokeswoman Pam Davis. The loans cover production and physical losses, she said.

For example, a farmer may obtain a loan to cover a crop loss due to drought; a rancher may obtain one to cover loss of a hay crop needed to feed his or her livestock. The department provides the loans at 3.125 percent interest, a rate that changes monthly, Davis said.

The USDA declaration comes independently of state drought declarations in Jackson County on Wednesday, Crook County in March, and Harney, Klamath, Lake and Malheur counties in February. Wheeler County has also asked Gov. John Kitzhaber to declare a drought there as well.

Farmers and ranchers have eight months from the declaration dates to apply for USDA emergency loans. Eligibility is assessed based on the extent of losses, security available and ability to repay. Further information is available online at disaster.fsa.usda.gov.

— Bulletin staff report