Enid News and Eagle
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack Wednesday designated all 77 counties in Oklahoma as primary natural disaster areas due to drought and heat.
The designation makes all qualified farm operations in the areas eligible for low-interest emergency loans. This is the first disaster declaration made by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2013. All 77 counties were similarly designated in 2012. This new designation will cover growing 2013 crops.
“The drought situation here in our state is proving to be challenging for all sectors of agriculture,” said Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture Jim Reese. “While we are starting 2013 with drought conditions, we are hoping for more favorable weather this year.”
The counties included in the designation have shown a drought intensity value of at least D2 for eight consecutive weeks based on the U.S. Drought Monitor.
The Drought Monitor scale ranges from D1 to D4, with D1 being moderate drought and D4 being exceptional drought. Oklahoma has had a majority of counties designated as D4 during both 2011 and 2012.
The emergency loans that are available through the USDA have a 2.15 percent interest rate and allow producers to access funding resources that will assist with production and physical losses.
Producers can visit their local county Farm Service Agency (FSA) office to learn more about the programs and eligibility.
Thirteen other states in the United States had counties designated as disaster areas, including Texas, Kansas, Missouri, New Mexico and Arkansas.
“This designation will assist our producers in making critical operating decisions as we head into the new year,” Reese said. “I understand the challenges that Mother Nature can bring to the agriculture industry and I hope for more rain in 2013.
“I continue to express my thankfulness to those in the ag sector for their fortitude and ingenuity to fight through tough weather conditions to continue to provide the safest, most affordable food supply in the world.”