Disaster declared for late freezes

October 23, 2013 12:30 pm

Local farmers affected are eligible for low-interest loans

Area farmers hurt by late freezes in April are eligible for assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The USDA on Oct. 1 designated six Oregon counties as primary natural disaster areas, including Baker, Umatilla and Union counties for damages and losses due freezing temperatures between April 8 and April 30 that damaged crops.

Farmers in Grant, Malheur, Morrow and Wallowa counties also qualify for assistance because their counties are contiguous. The designation also includes Adams and Washington counties in Idaho and Benton, Columbia and Walla Walla counties in Washington.

“Our hearts go out to those Oregon farmers and ranchers affected by recent natural disasters,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “President Obama and I are committed to ensuring that agriculture remains a bright spot in our nation’s economy by sustaining the successes of America’s farmers, ranchers and rural communities through these difficult times. We’re also telling Oregon that USDA stands with you and your communities when severe weather and natural disaster threaten to disrupt your livelihood.”

Jennifer Isley, Union County’s Farm Service Agency executive director, said the FSA made the request to the USDA before harvest.

“I think that we had some definite crop losses,” she said. “I think the biggest impact was on cherries.”

Darrin Walenta, agronomist with the Oregon State University Extension Center, said fruit trees were “impacted significantly” by late frosts and freezes, but he is not yet sure how that translated on the market. Grain and sugar beets have also been impacted by weather.

“I’ve heard variable reports on grain yields,” he said, adding that there has been a negative impact on the sugar content of sugar beets, which affects market value.

Affected producers are now eligible for emergency low-interest loans to help cover their losses. Farmers have eight months from the date the disaster was declared to apply for loans.

According to the USDA, the FSA will consider each loan application on its own merits, taking into account the extent of losses, security available and repayment ability.

“It’s always a good thing if you can make your producers eligible for whatever help,” Isley said. “You always hate to see your county have any sort of disaster, but when that happens you want them to be eligible for any assistance that’s available.”

The USDA declared two other disaster designations in Oregon. One was in Wasco and contiguous counties for damages and losses caused by freezing temperatures and excessive rain from March 22 to June 30. The third designation is for Gilliam, Morrow and contiguous counties for damages and losses caused by freezing temperatures and extreme heat from April 8 to May 13.

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