Hopkins County designated a primary natural disaster area by USDA
Ag producers who’ve suffered through drought eligible for loans
Kerry Craig | News-Telegram Assistant Editor

Aug. 25, 2006 -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated Hopkins and four other Texas counties as primary natural disaster areas, according to Ellis Dicus, farm loan manager for the USDA Farm Service Agency in Sulphur Springs.

The designation makes agriculture producers eligible for loans to cover part of actual production losses and physical losses resulting from the drought and excessive temperatures.

Farmers may be eligible for loans of up to 100 percent of their actual losses, or the operating loan needed to continue the agricultural business, whichever is less, Dicus said. For farmers who are unable to obtain credit from private commercial lenders, the interest rate is 3.75 percent.

"As a general rule, a farmer must have suffered at least a 30 percent loss of production to be eligible for an FSA emergency loan," Dicus said.  

Applications for emergency farm loans for losses caused by drought and excessive heat that occurred on Jan. 1, 2006, and continuing are being accepted at the Farm Service Agency office located at 530 Hillcrest Drive in Sulphur Springs.

Farmers participating in the Federal Crop Insurance Program will have to consider proceeds from those programs in determining their loss.

"Applications for loans under this emergency designation will be accepted until April  23, 2007, but farmers should apply as soon as possible," Dicus continued. "Delays in applying could create backlogs in processing, with possible delays into the new farming season."

Eligibility is extended to individual farmers who meet U.S. citizenship requirements and to farming partnerships, corporations or cooperatives in which U.S. citizenship requirements are met by individuals holding a majority interest.

Sherry McMillan, Farm Service Agency county executive director for Hopkins County, said the designation only makes producers in the county eligible to apply for emergency disaster loans.

"It does not apply to crop disaster programs or any kind of livestock assistance programs," McMillan said. "Congress has not implemented any type of disaster program yet ... no free money, no grant money available at this time. If and when Congress does implement a program, we have to have the emergency designation in place in order to be eligible, and this is a very key element."

Hopkins County Judge Cletis Millsap and members of the commissioners court in July asked Gov. Rick Perry for disaster assistance for farmers and ranchers in the county for the third consecutive year, a necessary step in obtaining the federal disaster designation.

"This designation is because of the fact we've had  losses in excess of 30 percent," Judge Millsap said. "This is why we need relief now."

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