Robeson County farmers are among those in 51 counties who are now eligible for emergency loans and assistance programs for damages suffered during the tornadoes in April of 2011 and Hurricane Irene in September.
Tom Vilsack, U.S. Department of Agriculture secretary, declared 35 North Carolina counties disaster areas on Tuesday, according to a statement from U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan’s office.
The primary designated counties include: Beaufort, Bertie, Camden, Carteret, Columbus,Craven, Cumberland, Currituck, Dare, Duplin, Edgecombe, Franklin, Greene, Halifax, Hyde, Johnston, Jones, Lenoir, Martin, Nash, New Hanover, Northampton, Onslow, Pamlico, Pasquotank, Pender, Pitt, Sampson, Tyrrell, Vance, Wake, Warren, Washington, Wayne and Wilson.
Contiguous counties, Robeson, Bladen, Brunswick, Chatham, Cumberland, Durham, Gates, Granville, Harnett, Hertford, Perquimans, Harnett, Hoke, Moore and Wake, will also be able to collect benefits.
“I am pleased that North Carolina farmers and ranchers impacted by the tornadoes and Hurricane Irene will finally get the assistance they deserve,” Hagan said in a statement.
The USDA deferred making a disaster designation until further information was available on total damages and production losses from the tornadoes and hurricane.
“My staff has steadily monitored restoration efforts and I will continue to fight to ensure that our communities receive sufficient federal aid to rebuild and recover,” Hagan said. “We owe it to them to do everything we can to help them recover from these devastating losses and be ready for this year’s growing season.”
State officials have said crop, forestry and agricultural equipment losses during Hurricane Irene could exceed $500 million.
Producers in both primary and contiguous counties are eligible to be considered for Farm Service Agency emergency loans and the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Program.
The USDA’s Farm Service Agency provides emergency loans to help producers recover from production and physical losses due to drought, flooding, other natural disasters, or quarantine.
Emergency loan funds may be used to: restore or replace essential property; pay all or part of production costs associated with the disaster year; pay essential family living expenses; reorganize the farming operation; and refinance certain debts.
To qualify, a farmer must have suffered a 30 percent crop loss between Aug. 26 and Aug. 30, according to Dean Sasser, farm loan manager in the Whiteville Farm Service Agency. Farmers should contact the Whiteville office at 910-642-2196 for an application.
The Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments program is authorized by the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 to provide assistance to producers suffering crop losses due to natural disasters.
To be eligible for the program, farmers must have suffered a qualifying loss of at least a 10 percent of production affecting an insured crop of economic significance during the disaster. County farmers should visit the Farm Service Agency Office at 440 Caton Road in Lumberton to apply.
Farmers have until Sept. 10 to apply for financial assistance for crop losses.