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Drought Assistance Available for Tennessee Farmers

Tuesday, August 30, 2016 | 02:40pm

From Agriculture Commissioner Jai Templeton:

“The weather this growing season has really been a mixed bag for Tennessee farmers who have experienced severe flooding to drought depending on the area. This creates a real challenge for producers, especially at a time when the market is not as strong as it has been in recent years. We are monitoring conditions closely and will continue to work with other state and federal partners to provide this and other helpful information as it becomes available.” 

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The heat wasn’t kind to farmers in the Southeast this summer. As of Oct. 5, 2016, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has declared drought disaster in 17 Tennessee counties.

Farm operators in Bledsoe, Bradley, Coffee, Franklin, Giles, Grundy, Hamilton, Lincoln, Marion, McMinn, Meigs, Monroe, Moore, Polk, Rhea, Sequatchie and Stewart counties are eligible for low interest emergency (EM) loans from USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA), provided eligibility requirements are met. Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of the declaration to apply for loans to help cover part of their actual losses.

Farmers and ranchers in the following counties in Tennessee also qualify for natural disaster assistance because their counties are contiguous to primary disaster counties: Bedford, Benton, Blount, Cannon, Cocke, Cumberland, Greene, Hardin, Henry, Houston, Lawrence, Loudon, Marshall, Maury, Montgomery, Roane, Rutherford, Shelby, Tipton, Unicoi,  Van Buren and Warren.

FSA will consider each loan application on its own merits, taking into account the extent of losses, security available and repayment ability. FSA has a variety of programs in addition to the EM loan program to help eligible farmers recover from adversity.

Other FSA programs can provide assistance but do not require a disaster declaration, including the Emergency Conservation Program; Livestock Forage Disaster Program; Livestock Indemnity Program; Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program; and the Tree Assistance Program. Interested farmers may contact their local USDA Service Centers for further information on eligibility requirements and application procedures.

Some businesses and groups affected by drought in Tennessee also have disaster loans available to them. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) stated in a news release that federal economic injury disaster loans are available to small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, and small businesses engaged in aquaculture and private nonprofit organizations as a result of the drought that began May 31.

The SBA loan amount can be up to $2 million and may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills. To apply online, click here.

The latest drought conditions can be viewed here. The U.S. Drought Monitor is a weekly map of drought conditions that is produced jointly by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC) at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.