U.S. Senators Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor and U.S. Representatives Marion Berry (AR-01), Vic Snyder (AR-02), John Boozman (AR-03) and Mike Ross (AR-04) today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) designated 20 Arkansas counties eligible for natural disaster assistance because of agricultural losses caused by severe storms, hail, high winds, and tornadoes that occurred between April 23 and May 4.
A USDA Secretarial disaster designation makes farmers in primary and contiguous counties eligible to receive assistance to help compensate for production losses on crops. Farmers in eligible counties have eight months to apply for emergency loan assistance from the Farm Service Agency. In addition, the disaster designations may make producers who suffered crop losses in those counties eligible for the 2010 Supplemental Revenue Assistance Program (SURE) program.
Faulkner, Lonoke, Mississippi and Woodruff counties were declared primary disaster areas and the following 16 counties were declared contiguous disaster areas: Arkansas, Cleburne, Conway, Craighead, Crittenden, Cross, Jackson, Jefferson, Monroe, Perry, Poinsett, Prairie, Pulaski, St. Francis, Van Buren and White.
"Arkansas has experienced its share of disruptive and dangerous weather over the last few years, and the most recent severe weather outbreak took a major economic toll on our farmers," said Lincoln, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry 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."
"Farms are the lifeblood of many Arkansas communities, and when this spring's severe weather hurt farmers' crops, it hurt the surrounding communities as well. I am pleased that these federal funds will help farmers recover from their losses and strengthen the local economies," Pryor said.
"In the wake of recent storms in Arkansas, I am proud to see we are doing what we can to help the farmers and families of Arkansas whose lives have been devastated by this natural disaster," Berry said. "This federal assistance will help ensure Arkansans get back on their feet as soon as possible, and help restore the local communities that were affected."
"Severe weather over the past year has caused major crop damage in Arkansas and I appreciate the federal government offering assistance," Snyder said. "I hope this support will help the farmers who suffered significant production losses."
"Arkansas's family farms are working hard to make it through this difficult economy. Yet, recent acts of God have hit these agribusinesses and devastating crop losses are threatening Arkansas family farms. Our agriculture community is essential to the economy of the Natural State. I am pleased that the federal government recognizes the importance of Arkansas's agriculture economy and is coming to its aid in this time of need," Boozman said.
"We all know the unpredictability of Arkansas weather, and unfortunately, many Arkansas farm families and businesses have suffered because of numerous recent severe weather events," Ross said. "Federal assistance like this is needed to help our communities make it through these difficult times and I will continue working in our nation's capital to ensure we have the necessary resources to recover from whatever storms and natural disasters come our way."
Once farmers apply for emergency loan assistance, the Farm Service Agency will consider each application on its own merit by taking into account the extent of losses and the applicant's ability to repay the loan. More information on assistance is available from the Arkansas Farm Service Agency at (501) 301-3000 and at local county Farm Service Agency offices.