The U.S. Department of Agriculture declared Placer County to be a natural disaster area Sept. 5, opening the door for local farmers and ranchers to seek assistance for drought- related losses.
Assistance also is available through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) for small non-farm businesses that have suffered economic losses because of reduced revenues caused by the drought.
On Sept. 5, Placer County was one of seven counties in California designated as primary natural disaster areas by the USDA. The agency also declared 26 other counties to be “contiguous disaster counties” where farmers and ranchers may seek assistance for drought losses.
Two days later, federal officials announced that small, nonfarm businesses in Placer County and the other affected counties are eligible to apply for low-interest federal disaster loans from the SBA. The SBA makes Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs) available whenever the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture designates an agricultural disaster.
The USDA designation makes farm operators eligible to apply for low-interest emergency loans and other assistance from the department’s Farm Service Agency for losses suffered since Jan. 1, 2012. In a Sept. 5 press release, USDA reported that farmers and ranchers have eight months to apply for loans to help cover part of their actual losses.
Placer County Agricultural Commissioner Joshua Huntsinger is helping get word out in Placer County, particularly to livestock owners hurt by the lack of adequate winter forage on unirrigated pastureland.
“Our livestock owners are a vital part of our agricultural community in Placer County, and this drought has had significant financial impacts on them,” he said.
He noted that many local farmers and ranchers depend on livestock being able to sustain themselves by foraging on nonirrigated rangeland during the winter months. This year, many livestock operators faced two options because of drought conditions and the resulting lack of feed: reduce the number of livestock competing for forage or buy hay or other supplemental feed.
The 2011 Placer County Agricultural Crop Report lists cattle and calves as the second biggest crop in the county, with a total value of almost $11.3 million. Rice was the leading crop, with a total value of $17.9 million.
Last year, Placer County’s farm economy included approximately 14,500 cattle and calves and about 4,000 sheep.
The USDA’s disaster declaration was requested by the California Emergency Management Agency. The decision to designate Placer and six other counties as primary natural disaster areas was based on a review of drought-related losses for the 2012 crop year.
In a Sept. 7 press release, SBA announced that small, nonfarm businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in aquaculture and most private, nonprofit organizations of any size may qualify for Economic Injury Disaster Loans of up to $2 million to help meet financial obligations and operating expenses which could have been met had the disaster not occurred.
“SBA eligibility covers both the economic impacts on businesses dependent on farmers and ranchers that have suffered agricultural production losses caused by the disaster and businesses directly impacted by the disaster,” explained Alfred E. Judd, director of SBA’s Disaster Field Operations Center-West.
The deadline for applying for the SBA disaster loans is May 6, 2013.
Applicants for SBA loans may apply online at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela. Disaster loan information and application forms are available from SBA’s Customer Service Center by calling toll-free at 800-659-2955, e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or visiting SBA’s website at www.sba.gov/services/disasterassistance. Individuals who are deaf or hard-of-hearing may call 800-877-8339.
The FSA has a variety of programs to assist eligible farmers. Additional information about disaster-assistance programs is available online at http://disaster.fsa.usda.gov.
The USDA also reported farmers may contact its local Service Centers for more information about eligibility requirements and application procedures for assistance programs. Placer County farm operators may want to contact the USDA’s Yuba City office, 1521 Butte House Road, Suite A, Yuba City, CA 95993-2236. Its telephone number is 530-671-0850.