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|Feds declare emergency for Franklin farmers|
A summer drought followed by torrential rain during the harvest season will mean farmers have access to emergency aid thanks to a federal declaration of emergency.
On Monday, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack declared 53 Louisiana parishes primary disaster areas due to crop loss.
Franklin Parish was among the 53 parishes listed in the federal declaration.
"President Obama and I understand these conditions caused severe damage to the area and serious harm to farms in Louisiana and we want to help," said Vilsack in a prepared statement. "This action will provide help to hundreds of farmers who suffered significant production losses to corn, cotton, rice sorghum, soybeans, forage crops and sweet potatoes."
Specifically, qualified farmers have eight months to tap low-interest emergency loans, or EM loans, issued through the USDA's Farm Service Agency.
Also, the declaration will make it easier for producers to utilize the federal SURE program, a revenue guarantee program backed by the federal government in the 2008 farm bill.
Local FSA agent Brett Burns said the declaration is good news for area producers hit hard by inclement weather.
"It just makes it easier to qualify for SURE, but it depends on their type of crop coverage," said Burns.
Because the SURE program guarantees revenue levels and not crop yield, much of what farmers can receive will depend on how much income their crops generated, according to Burns.
"That's a little different than the old ad hoc disaster programs, where it was based on yield loss," Burns said.
Also, Burns noted it will be almost a year before producers can expect to see money from the SURE program because the funding is based on a full marketing year.
"We're just now starting to work on the SURE requests for 2008," Burns said.
For producers in need of immediate financial relief, Burns said the EM loans represent the most immediate option for qualified farmers.
"EM loans are automatic," Burns said. "They can come in any time and begin that process."
USDA officials also noted growers in affected areas will be eligible for the Emergency Conservation Program, federal crop insurance, and the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program.
Additional information is available online at disaster.fsa.usda.gov.