Thanks to the persistent efforts of Senators Jon Tester and Max Baucus, more Montana farmers and ranchers are now eligible for low-interest emergency loans to help them recover from severe drought and fire.
The U.S. Agriculture Department today declared Broadwater, Gallatin, Jefferson, and Silver Bow counties as primary disaster counties. Farmers and ranchers in these counties are dealing with historic drought as well as the threat of wildfires.
Tester and Baucus also announced that seven more Montana counties are eligible for the same low-interest loans because they border primary disaster counties. They are Beaverhead, Deer Lodge, Lewis and Clark, Madison, Meagher, Park and Powell counties.
"Montana farmers and ranchers continue to deal with historic drought and wildfires, and now is not the time to take our eye off the ball," Tester said. "This assistance will help producers move forward, but we need the House of Representatives to stop stalling the Farm Bill so we can get farmers and ranchers the support they deserve."
"The drought and wildfires are dealing a one-two punch and we've got to fight back by supporting our farmers and ranchers during this tough time," said Baucus. "I'll keep fighting to make sure Montana ranchers and farmers have the tools they need to keep putting food on our tables and keep folks on the job."
Tester and Baucus have been pushing USDA since July to speed up all available federal resources for Montana agriculture producers struggling with wildfire and drought disaster conditions. In August, Tester and Baucus announced that seven additional counties have access to emergency assistance to help rebuild fences and rehabilitate ranchland torched by wildfires, and emergency water for irrigation and livestock in five Montana counties hit hardest by drought.
Tester and Baucus are encouraging Montana ranchers and farmers to contact their local Farm Service Agency offices to apply for loans and to find out what other assistance they may qualify for.
Producers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of the declaration to apply for loans to help cover part of their actual losses. Recently, USDA reduced the interest rate for emergency loans from 3.75 percent to 2.25 percent.