ADVISORY: DISASTER ASSISTANCE AVAILABLE FOR DROUGHT STRICKEN AREAS IN GEORGIA
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Secretary of Agriculture Thomas J. Vilsack, in accordance with Section 321(a) of the Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act, sent a letter last week designating three counties within the State of Georgia as contiguous disaster areas due to recent drought conditions in Georgia and Alabama. These designated areas include Chattahoochee, Muscogee, and Stewart counties in Georgia.
“I am pleased that Secretary Vilsack recognized the need for drought assistance in areas of Southwest Georgia,” said Congressman Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. “However, based on concerns I have heard from farmers in the 2nd Congressional District of Georgia, I urge Secretary Vilsack to investigate whether these and additional counties in Middle and Southwest Georgia may themselves also qualify as areas of severe drought, which would open up additional resources for impacted farmers. My office is committed to ensuring that all counties experiencing drought conditions are receiving the appropriate level of assistance.”
Receiving a Secretarial contiguous disaster area designation allows farmers within Chattahoochee, Muscogee, and Stewart counties to be eligible for certain U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) disaster assistance programs. The main disaster assistance program triggered by the Secretarial designation is consideration for low-interest emergency loans. This type of designation also triggers access to Disaster Set-Aside (DSA) program, which enables producers with a direct loan from the Farm Service Agency (FSA) to move one annual payment to the end of the loan if the producers are not able to make their payments on schedule.
Russell County in Alabama, adjacent to Chattahoochee, Muscogee, and Stewart counties in Georgia, received a primary natural disaster area designation due to severe drought conditions. Should any Georgia counties also independently meet enhanced primary drought designations (D2 to D4) as defined by the U.S. Drought Monitor, farmers may be eligible for additional assistance. This assistance includes access to payments from the Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LSP) for grazing losses from drought-affected pastureland and cropland. Eligibility varies depending on time and conditions, but LSP assistance generally requires a drought designation of D2 (severe drought) for eight consecutive weeks during the normal grazing period. A designation of D3 (extreme drought) or D4 (exceptional drought) anytime during the normal grazing period also opens up eligibility for LSP assistance.