By Reann Huber
Morgan County falls under the designation of natural disaster area after being contiguous with one of 21 counties in Georgia designated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as a primary natural disaster area due to the recent drought.
“Our hearts go out to those Georgia farmers and ranchers affected by recent natural disasters,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a news release from the USDA.
Morgan County is one of 19 counties that are contiguous with primary natural disaster counties in Georgia, making farm operators in these areas eligible for low interest emergency (EM) loans from the USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA).
“Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of declaration to apply for loans to help cover part of their actual losses,” FSA Public Affairs Specialist Latawnya Dia said in the news release. “FSA will consider each loan application on its own merits, taking into account the extent of losses, security available and repayment ability.”
However, it will not be until Morgan County moves to a D2 designation for natural disaster with severe drought that farmers will be able to apply for the loans.
“Morgan County has not declared that they have a natural disaster just yet and they will have to meet the D2 designation before they apply to receive the loans,” said Joseph Young, a program technician at the Watkinsville USDA Service Center. “Once Morgan County declares it as a natural disaster, letters will be sent to the farmers explaining how they can apply for the loans and the repayment process.”
Under the Livestock Forage Disaster Program, eligible counties are rated based on the U.S Drought Monitor. A D2 (severe drought) classification occurs when there is eight consecutive weeks of the drought and the assistance would equal one monthly payment.
The FSA also has other programs that could benefit farmers that do not require disaster declaration, including the Emergency Conservation Program, Livestock Indemnity Program, Emergency Assistance for Livestock, and more.
Farmers are also welcome to contact the USDA Service Center in Madison if they would like further information on the natural disaster declaration or their potential eligibility for loans.