Drought Has KS Counties Declared Federal Disaster Areas

By: Posted by Melissa Brunner
By: Posted by Melissa Brunner

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Federal help could be coming to dozens of Kansas counties impacted by severe drought.

Gov. Sam Brownback, Agriculture Dale Rodman and Kansas Water Office Director Tracy Streeter announced Wednesday that the USDA has declared 82 counties federal disaster areas. The designation makes producers eligible for disaster assistance programs.

State officials say the declarations are part of the USDA's efforts to update the disaster designation process and deliver more efficient and flexible assistance to farmers and ranchers coping with the ongoing drought.

Gov. Brownback said this update is a step in the right direction to provide timely assistance to agricultural producers.

“Farmers and ranchers are at the mercy of Mother Nature and many of our Kansas producers are struggling right now from the ongoing extreme heat and lack of moisture,” Brownback said. “We welcome these commonsense updates from USDA and will continue working to make sure farmers and ranchers have access to the resources they need to cope with crop losses and impacts on livestock.”

Farmers and ranchers in the counties under the disaster declaration will be eligible for emergency FSA loans. The USDA also lowered the rental payment reduction when landowners use Conservation Reserve Program acres for emergency grazing and haying.

“Natural disasters cannot be predicted so farmers and ranchers need to have access to flexible, efficient and workable disaster programs to help them recover from losses while also enabling them to continue caring for their livestock,” Rodman said. “These changes will help USDA act quickly to provide necessary assistance to agricultural producers.”

Kansas Disaster Designations:

Primary Counties:
Allen, Anderson, Barber, Barton, Bourbon, Butler, Chautquaua, Cheyenne, Clark, Coffey, Comanche, Cowley, Crawford, Decatur, Edwards, Elk, Finney, Ford, Gove, Graham, Grant, Gray, Greeley, Greenwood, Hamilton, Harper, Harvey, Haskell, Hodgeman, Kearney, Kingman, Kiowa, Labette, Lane, Linn, Logan, Lyon, McPherson, Meade, Montgomery, Morton, Neosho, Ness, Norton, Pawnee, Phillips, Pratt, Rawlins, Reno, Rice, Rooks, Scott, Sedgwick, Seward, Sheridan, Sherman, Stafford, Stanton, Stevens, Sumner, Thomas, Trego, Wallace, Wichita, Wilson and Woodson

Contiguous Counties:
Chase, Cherokee, Dickinson, Ellis, Ellsworth, Franklin, Marion, Morris, Miami, Osage, Osborne, Rush, Russell, Saline, Smith and Wabaunsee

Complete news release from the Governor's office:
Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, Kansas Secretary of Agriculture Dale Rodman and Kansas Water Office Director Tracy Streeter welcomed an announcement that 82 Kansas counties will be declared as federal disaster areas by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), making agricultural producers eligible for disaster assistance programs. The disaster declarations are the result of improvements the USDA recently made to current federal disaster assistance programs to update the disaster designation process and deliver more efficient and flexible disaster assistance to farmers and ranchers coping with the ongoing drought.

In place for more than two decades, the USDA streamlined the federal disaster designation process to assure a faster disaster designation. The designation makes farmers and ranchers eligible for Farm Service Agency (FSA) low interest emergency loans. This process update resulted in the designation of 1,016 primary counties nationwide as disaster areas effective Thurs., July 12, 2012. Specifically, 66 Kansas counties will be declared as primary disaster areas and 16 contiguous counties will also receive disaster designations. Gov. Brownback said this update is a step in the right direction to provide timely assistance to agricultural producers.

“Farmers and ranchers are at the mercy of Mother Nature and many of our Kansas producers are struggling right now from the ongoing extreme heat and lack of moisture,” Gov. Brownback said. “We welcome these commonsense updates from USDA and will continue working to make sure farmers and ranchers have access to the resources they need to cope with crop losses and impacts on livestock.”

Agricultural producers from the 82 Kansas counties declared as disaster areas will be eligible for emergency FSA loans. The current loan interest rate, which was set in 1993 at 3.75 percent, was reduced by USDA to 2.25 percent. Additionally, USDA lowered the rental payment reduction when landowners use Conservation Reserve Program acres for emergency grazing and haying from 25 percent to 10 percent in 2012.

“Natural disasters cannot be predicted so farmers and ranchers need to have access to flexible, efficient and workable disaster programs to help them recover from losses while also enabling them to continue caring for their livestock,” Secretary Rodman said. “These changes will help USDA act quickly to provide necessary assistance to agricultural producers.”

Streeter said while these changes are welcome, it is imperative to continue monitoring precipitation levels, soil moisture content, stream flow levels, and crop conditions.

“As the drought continues to impact all Kansas counties, it is important for all stakeholders, from farmers and ranchers, local county emergency boards and the state FSA office to the Kansas Department of Agriculture, the Kansas Water Office, Gov. Brownback and USDA, to stay engaged,” Streeter said. “It will require a full-team effort to assure Kansans have access to timely and necessary resources to deal with this devastating drought.”


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