U.S. Senators Mark Pryor and Blanche Lincoln and U.S. Representatives Marion Berry (AR-01), Vic Snyder (AR-02), John Boozman (AR-03) and Mike Ross (AR-04) today announced that Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has declared Calhoun, Desha, Jefferson, Lincoln, Miller, Pope, Union and Yell as primary natural disaster areas due to losses caused by excessive rainfall and extensive flooding that occurred from June 1, 2009, and continuing.
In accordance with section 321(a) of the Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act, Secretary Vilsack also named 26 additional counties as contiguous disaster counties. These include: Ashley, Bradley, Chicot, Conway, Cross, Independence, Jackson, Lafayette, Little River, Monroe, Perry, Phillips, Poinsett, Prairie, St. Francis, White and Woodruff.
"Our producers have been hit hard by severe weather this year. As Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I have been working closely with the Governor's office and delegation members to help secure these disaster declarations so our farmers and ranchers can be eligible for emergency loans. Moving forward, I believe all disaster assistance options, including ad hoc, must be on the table to help our producers when and where needed," Lincoln said.
"While we await a full assessment of the damage, we do know there will be a significant impact on crop yields and quality for many farmers this year. This declaration is good news and will help our farmers receive emergency loans to stay afloat," Pryor said. "I appreciate Secretary Vilsack's prompt attention to our farmers' needs."
"Time and again Arkansas experiences the devastating effects of Mother Nature and our farmers always bear the brunt of these hardships," said Berry. "Each time this happens our communities come together to demonstrate their resilience. While this funding is not the entire solution, it will provide additional resources to help some farmers get back on their feet."
"Because of the unseasonably heavy rains this year, the loss to Arkansas growers and the Arkansas economy may be staggering," said Snyder. "Arkansas farmers need this disaster declaration and federal support to recover from damages and losses to crops."
"It is critical that we get any available assistance to those in jeopardy from this disaster as quickly as possible," Boozman said. "During the current economic environment, the security of Arkansas family farms is particularly susceptible to the affect this weather has had on their yields and bottom lines. Without this assistance, many of the farms on which Arkansans depends for revenue could have been lost forever. This declaration is a big step towards helping farms that have been devastated by Mother Nature."
"This declaration is an important step towards providing critical federal aid and resources for our hardworking farmers and farm families," said Ross. "Since this summer, storms and heavy rains have damaged crops and forests throughout Arkansas's Fourth Congressional District and have put many harvests at risk this year. During these tough economic times, we must protect our farms and farm families as they are the backbone of the Arkansas economy and a critical source of food and fiber for our nation."
Governor Beebe submitted a disaster declaration request on October 9, 2009, for 26 counties and the Arkansas Congressional delegation wrote Secretary Vilsack in support of the Governor's request to the Department of Agriculture. On June 26, 2009, Secretary Vilsack designated 18 of the 26 counties in the original request as primary natural disaster areas due to losses caused by excessive rainfall and extensive flooding that occurred from May 4, 2009, and continuing. Consequently, those 18 counties are already eligible for all Farm Service Agency (FSA) assistance due to excessive rainfall and extensive flooding and, therefore, Secretary Vilsack said it is not necessary to designate them again.
Those counties already declared natural disaster areas are: Ashley, Bradley, Chicot, Conway, Cross, Independence, Jackson, Lafayette, Little River, Monroe, Perry, Phillips, Poinsett, Prairie, St. Francis, White and Woodruff.
This designation makes farm operators in both primary and contiguous counties eligible to be considered for assistance from FSA, provided eligibility requirements are met. This assistance includes FSA emergency loans and the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments Program, which was approved as part of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of2008. FSA will consider each application on its own merit by taking into account the extent of losses, security available, and repayment ability.
For more information on assistance, please contact the Arkansas State Farm Service Agency at (501) 301-3000 or your local county Farm Service Agency office.