597 U.S. counties designated Natural Disaster areas because of Drought
March 4, 2013
The USDA pointed to drought and heat conditions, on Wednesday as they designated 597 counties in fourteen states as primary natural disaster areas. These counties must have suffered severe drought for eight consecutive weeks to qualify for the designation. The county designation makes farmers in those counties eligible for low-interest loans.
"As drought persists, USDA will continue to partner with producers to see them through longer-term recovery, while taking the swift actions needed to help farmers and ranchers prepare their land and operations for the upcoming planting season," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement.
Richard Oswald, a 62-year-old farmer in Missouri's Atchison County, said he has been hit hard by the drought but was not sure whether he would take advantage of the drought designation for his county by getting a low-interest loan.
"The hay situation is not good; the pastures burned up early because of the heat and lack of rain," said Oswald, who was born on a farm and has been farming since he was a teenager. "This is the worst drought that I have ever seen. An emergency loan is great, but it's still borrowed money, and as a farmer, that's not good because you have to pay it back."
Drought shriveled crops across the farm belt have caused an expected rise in food prices in 2013, according to USDA.
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