USDA Declares Maui, Hawai"i and Kalawao Counties Disaster Areas in Midst of Extreme Drought Conditions
Today, U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai"i) announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture declared Hawai"i and Maui Counties disaster areas due to the ongoing drought. Kalawao County was named a contiguous disaster county also eligible for federal assistance. This declaration makes farm operators facing extreme drought conditions eligible for low interest emergency loan assistance from the Farm Service Agency. Funds may be used to assist in moving water to livestock in need, providing emergency forage for livestock, and rehabilitating lands severely impacted by the drought.
"The drought Hawai"i and Maui Counties are experiencing right now is historic and extreme and farmers and ranchers need help," said Senator Brian Schatz, chair of the Senate Energy Subcommittee on Water and Power. "These emergency loans can be a resource as we continue to deal with this persistent, severe drought."
Due to the intensity and longevity of existing drought conditions, the National Drought Mitigation Center declared Maui and Hawai"i Islands under "Extreme Drought" conditions. Today, portions of Hawai"i and Maui continue to suffer from extreme or severe drought.
Drought on Maui has led to such dry conditions that the Maui County Department of Water Supply asked central and south Maui residents to voluntarily reduce water consumption by 10 percent. On Hawai"i Island, many of the livestock operations on the leeward side were forced to continue the costly purchase of supplemental feed and the hauling of water and some growers have also been using public water due to inadequate rainfall. The Hawai"i County Department of Water Supply also issued a 25 percent water restriction notice in Waimea and South Kohala. Ongoing dry conditions along the slopes of the South Kohala and North Kohala elevated the risk of significant brush fires. On Moloka"i, the water level in the Kualapu"u Reservoir has remained very low and the State of Hawai"i Department of Agriculture has continued its mandatory 30 percent reduction in irrigation water use.
In the Farm Service Agency's emergency loan program, producers can borrow up to 100 percent of the actual production or physical losses minus any disaster related compensation received like insurance, up to a maximum of $500,000, at the current interest rate of 3.75 percent. Loans for crop, livestock and non-real estate losses are normally repaid within one to seven years. Loans for physical losses to real estate are normally repaid within 30 years.
Farmers and ranchers in counties designated primary or contiguous disaster areas are encouraged to contact their crop insurance companies and local USDA Farm Service Agency Service Centers here to report damages to crops or livestock loss. Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of the disaster declaration to apply for assistance. In addition, the USDA encourages livestock producers to keep thorough records of losses, including additional expenses for such things as food purchased due to lost supplies.