Farmers eligible for loans

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 25, 2007

COURTLAND-Many Southampton and Suffolk farmers will be eligible for low-interest emergency loans form the Farm Service Agency as a result of a drought disaster declaration for Northampton County, N.C.

The Secretary of Agriculture announced Sept. 12 that Northampton would be granted disaster-area status as a result of high temperatures and low rainfall totals. Although the designation was for 85 North Carolina counties, contiguous areas are also eligible for federal aid.

The Farm Service Agency will consider each loan application on its own merits, taking into account the extent of losses, security available and repayment ability, according to information on the agency’s Web site.

To help eligible farmers recover from adverse events, including drought, the agency also offers other assistance programs in addition to the emergency loan program.

This is the second disaster declaration of the year to affect farmers in Southampton and Suffolk. Another declaration specifying primary counties in North Carolina was made as a result of abnormally low temperatures and freezing conditions in April.

Farmers have eight months from the date of the declarations – excluding weekends and federal holidays – to apply for the loans to help cover part of their actual losses.

The deadline associated with the April declaration is Jan. 24. Farmers have until May 12 to apply for the low-interest loans to help make up for their drought-related losses.

Governor Timothy M. Kaine has asked the Department of Agriculture to name Southampton, Isle of Wight and 50 other Virginia counties as primary disaster areas. Eight have already received that designation, and requests for the other 44 – including Southampton and Isle of Wight – are pending.

&uot;We anticipate the USDA will respond to the many additional requests in the weeks ahead,&uot; he said in a Sept. 11 announcement.

Sen. Jim Webb sent his own endorsement of the disaster declaration request on Sept. 17, asking the agriculture agency to declare 28 counties, including Isle of Wight and Southampton, primary disaster areas as a result of the ongoing drought.

&uot;The recent drought which has affected these counties has resulted in widespread damage throughout the region,&uot; he wrote. &uot;The damage done to our region’s agricultural crops has been severe, and our farmers are facing critical financial situations. Federal disaster relief assistance is urgently needed.&uot;

Southampton and Isle of Wight counties are within an area of southern Virginia that is experiencing severe drought conditions as of Sept. 18, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, a service of the USDA, the National Drought Mitigation Center and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Rainfall totals for the area, as measured by the National Weather Service in Wakefield, were down almost 4.5 inches from their 30-year average, as of the end of August.