Marion County and 81 other counties in Kansas were declared as federal disaster areas Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, making agricultural producers eligible for disaster assistance programs.
Mary Geiger, communications director with the Kansas Department of Agriculture, said the disaster declarations are the result of improvements the USDA recently made to current federal disaster assistance programs to update the disaster designation process and deliver more efficient and flexible disaster assistance to farmers and ranchers coping with the ongoing drought.
“In place for more than two decades, the USDA streamlined the federal disaster designation process to assure a faster disaster designation,” she said.
This process update resulted in the designation of 1,016 primary counties nationwide as disaster areas effective last week.
Specifically, 66 Kansas counties will be declared as primary disaster areas and 16 contiguous counties will also receive disaster designations, she said.
Gov. Sam Brownback said this update is a step in the right direction to provide timely assistance to agricultural producers.
“Farmers and ranchers are at the mercy of Mother Nature and many of our Kansas producers are struggling right now from the ongoing extreme heat and lack of moisture,” Brownback said. “We welcome these commonsense updates from USDA and will continue working to make sure farmers and ranchers have access to the resources they need to cope with crop losses and impacts on livestock.”
Agricultural producers from the 82 Kansas counties declared as disaster areas will be eligible for emergency Farm Service Agency loans. The current loan interest rate, which was set in 1993 at 3.75 percent, was reduced by USDA to 2.25 percent, Geiger said.
Additionally, USDA lowered the rental payment reduction when landowners use Conservation Reserve Program acres for emergency grazing and haying from 25 percent to 10 percent in 2012.
“Natural disasters cannot be predicted so farmers and ranchers need to have access to flexible, efficient and workable disaster programs to help them recover from losses while also enabling them to continue caring for their livestock,” said Kansas Secretary of Agriculture Dale Rodman. “These changes will help USDA act quickly to provide necessary assistance to agricultural producers.”
Kansas Water Office Director Tracy Streeter said that while these changes are welcome, it is imperative to continue monitoring precipitation levels, soil moisture content, stream flow levels, and crop conditions.
“As the drought continues to impact all Kansas counties, it is important for all stakeholders, from farmers and ranchers, local county emergency boards and the state FSA office to the Kansas Department of Agriculture, the Kansas Water Office, Gov. Brownback and USDA, to stay engaged,” Streeter said. “It will require a full-team effort to assure Kansans have access to timely and necessary resources to deal with this devastating drought.”
Primary counties affected are Allen, Anderson, Barber, Barton, Bourbon, Butler, Chautauqua, Cheyenne, Clark, Coffey, Comanche, Cowley, Crawford, Decatur, Edwards, Elk, Finney, Ford, Gove, Graham, Grant, Gray, Greeley, Greenwood, Hamilton, Harper, Harvey, Haskell, Hodgeman, Kearney, Kingman, Kiowa, Labette, Lane, Linn, Logan, Lyon, McPherson, Meade, Montgomery, Morton, Neosho, Ness, Norton, Pawnee, Phillips, Pratt, Rawlins, Reno, Rice, Rooks, Scott, Sedgwick, Seward, Sheridan, Sherman, Stafford, Stanton, Stevens, Sumner, Thomas, Trego, Wallace, Wichita, Wilson and Woodson.