Thirty South Dakota counties declared disaster areas

Thirty South Dakota counties declared disaster areas Gov. Mike Rounds has announced that 30 South Dakota counties have been declared primary natural disaster areas by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman due to losses caused by a late spring killing frost, extreme heat, high winds, hail, severe storms, drought and insect infestations that occurred from Jan. 1, and continuing. In addition, nine South Dakota counties have been named contiguous disaster counties.

"These counties have reported water shortages and alfalfa crop, pasture, and hay losses, which has forced farmers and ranchers to sell cattle and sheep herds due to lack of feed and quality water" said Gov. Rounds. "Long needed assistance will now be available for producers in these areas, as these conditions continue to bring economic hardships not only to the affected producers, but also to the businesses that depend on them for their livelihood."

Counties included in the natural disaster declaration include: Bennett, Brule, Buffalo, Butte, Campbell, Corson, Custer, Dewey, Fall River, Gregory, Haakon, Hand, Harding, Hughes, Hyde, Jackson, Jones, Lawrence, Lyman, Meade, Mellette, Pennington, Perkins, Shannon, Stanley, Sully, Todd, Tripp, Walworth and Ziebach. Counties included in the contiguous disaster declaration include: Aurora, Beadle, Charles Mix, Edmunds, Faulk, Jerauld, McPherson, Potter and Spink.

On July 1, Gov. Rounds wrote Secretary Veneman requesting an agricultural disaster declaration. A copy of Gov. Rounds' letter to Veneman is available at items/veneman.pdf.

Farmers and ranchers in both primary and contiguous counties are eligible to be considered for low-interest emergency loan assistance from the Farm Service Agency (FSA) for losses caused by severe drought that occurred since January 1, 2004.

The FSA provides the loans to help cover production and physical losses in counties declared as disaster areas by the president or designated by the secretary of agriculture. The FSA may authorize emergency loans for physical losses only and be made to farmers and ranchers who:

* are established family farm operators.

* are citizens or permanent residents of the United States.

* have the ability, training or experience necessary to repay the loan.

* have suffered a qualifying physical loss, or a production loss of at least 30 percent in any essential farm or ranch enterprise.

* cannot obtain commercial credit.

* have repayment ability.

"Emergency loan funds are limited to actual losses and may be used to restore essential property, pay all or part of disaster year production costs, family living expenses, reorganization of farming operation, and to refinance chattel debts," said Jason Bauder, Office of Emergency Management. "Loans for crop and livestock losses are normally repaid in one to seven years depending upon the loan purpose, repayment ability and available security."

Producers may contact their local FSA county offices for further information about the Emergency Loan program. Eligible applicants have until April 6, 2005, to apply for emergency loan assistance under this designation.

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