Montana's U.S. Senators Jon Tester and Max Baucus announced six new disaster declarations for Montana counties and the Northern Cheyenne Reservation today, making ranchers and farmers in those counties eligible for low-interest emergency loans to help them recover from severe drought and fire.
Today's announcement designates the following "primary natural disaster" areas due to losses caused by the combined effects of drought, excessive heat, high winds, wildfires, hail and other severe weather that began January 1, 2012.
* Fallon, Judith Basin, Rosebud, Glacier, Madison and Teton counties were declared primary disaster counties by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today.
* This year, 26 Montana counties have been declared primary natural disaster areas by the USDA.
* 14 additional Montana counties are eligible for assistance because they border primary disaster areas.
"Montana's farmers and ranchers continue to deal with the impact of drought and wildfire, and while some in Congress delay the Farm Bill, we need to step up and support Montana agriculture," Tester said. "This assistance will help producers get back on their feet and return to doing what they do best: feeding our state and our nation."
"Even though wildfire season is beginning to wind down, the devastating effects are still being felt by our farmers and ranchers across the state. These resources will support the one in five Montana jobs that depend on our Agriculture industry," Baucus said.
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. Earlier this month, Baucus and Tester announced seven additional counties that now 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 emergency haying and grazing rights, 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 effectively reduced the interest rate for EM loans from 3.75 percent to 2.25 percent.