Bentley declares drought emergency

Published 4:31 pm Monday, July 16, 2012

MONTGOMERY – Gov. Robert Bentley and Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan announced Friday that farmers in nearly half of Alabama’s counties will be eligible for low-interest federal loans as a result of a drought emergency declaration by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack.

“While much of the state has received rain this week, it is not enough to eliminate the severe and extreme drought conditions that many places are experiencing,” Bentley said. “Farmers across Alabama are suffering through what has been an extended drought from last year. We appreciate Secretary Vilsack’s response to this critical situation that affects so many Alabama families.”

In a July 12 letter to Bentley, Vilsack designated the following 33 counties as “primary natural disaster areas” suffering from severe or extreme drought: Autauga, Baldwin, Barbour, Bibb, Bullock, Butler, Chambers, Chilton, Clay, Cleburne, Coffee, Conecuh, Coosa, Covington, Crenshaw, Dale, Dallas, Elmore, Escambia, Geneva, Henry, Houston, Lee, Lowndes, Macon, Montgomery, Perry, Pike, Randolph, Russell, Talladega, Tallapoosa and Wilcox.

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An additional 12 counties were named as “contiguous disaster counties.” Those counties are also eligible for federal low-interest loans and include: Calhoun, Cherokee, Clarke, Hale, Jefferson, Marengo, Mobile, Monroe, St. Clair, Shelby, Tuscaloosa and Washington.

“There are many growers of commodity crops such as corn, soybeans, cotton and peanuts, who have suffered damage from the drought,” McMillan said. “Farmers should contact their local office of the Farm Service Agency to determine their eligibility and begin the process for loan application.”

Additional counties could be added to the declaration in the coming weeks as the USDA Drought Monitor provides weekly reports on drought conditions. The counties declared as primary natural disaster areas this week have faced severe drought conditions for at least eight consecutive weeks or extreme drought conditions at any time during the growing season.

McMillan said farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of a secretarial disaster declaration to apply for emergency loan assistance. FSA will consider each emergency loan application based on objective standards with regard to production losses, security available and repayment ability.