Walker County among 50 listed in disaster declaration from USDA
by Briana Webster
Sep 25, 2013 | 2485 views | 0 0 comments | 38 38 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The United States Department of Agriculture named 50 counties in Alabama last week as primary natural disaster areas as a result of the enormous amount of rain and flooding the state has received since Jan. 1.

The USDA issued a disaster declaration for the particular counties on Sept. 18, and farmers from those counties have eight months from that declaration date to apply for emergency loans.

Danny Cain, Walker County’s extension coordinator, said Walker County has seen an above average amount of rainfall so far this year.

“It’s a declaration that makes agricultural producers potentially eligible for certain programs, in this case as it stands right now, the only offering under this program is a low interest loan program,” Cain said. “... As far as crop-wise here, it’s probably, at this point in time, too early to tell where we really stand because things are not in yet. Folks have just really begun harvesting corn and soybeans; we’re still quite a ways from even being able to harvest.” 

He added the possibility of some potential livestock losses as far as hay and forage crops are concerned, as well as commercial vegetable growers.

According to the NOAA’s National Weather Service website, “The second highest rank for Palmer Index wetness, third highest for cool maximum temperatures, and eighth highest for number of days with precipitation gave the Southeast region its seventh largest August CEI [Climate Extremes Index] in the 104-year record (the Southeast had the third largest July CEI just last month).” The CEI is an index which joins extreme weather indices to show a cumulative impact.

A USDA press release indicated the following Alabama counties designated as the primary natural disaster areas: Autauga, Baldwin, Barbour, Blount, Bullock, Calhoun, Cherokee, Chilton, Choctaw, Clarke, Cleburne, Coosa, Covington, Crenshaw, Cullman, Dale, Dallas, Elmore, Etowah, Fayette, Geneva, Greene, Hale, Henry, Houston, Jackson, Jefferson, Lamar, Lauderdale, Lowndes, Macon, Madison, Marengo, Mobile, Monroe, Montgomery, Morgan, Perry, Pickens, Pike, Russell, St. Clair, Shelby, Sumter, Talladega, Tallapoosa, Tuscaloosa, Walker, Washington and Wilcox.

Cain said for the most part our area’s farmers and growers have made it through the unusual rainy season rather well. “We seem to have come through it pretty good. I think our corn yields are going to be OK and with soybeans it’s too early to tell,” Cain said. “Some of the vegetable crop producers had some sporadic problems as far as harvesting and probably had a little bit of additional expense in there because there’s some additional spraying and stuff they had to do to combat disease problems and things related to the moisture, but yield-wise I have not heard of any report of anybody suffering severely on yielding, at this point in time anyway.” 

Cain, along with information given from the USDA press release, said farmers in those designated counties who sign up and are eligible for low interest emergency loans will be considered and handled through the Farm Service Agency. The agency will then look at the applications, the extent of losses, security available and repayment ability.

United States Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was quoted in the press release saying, “Our hearts go out to those Alabama farmers and ranchers affected by recent natural disasters. 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, rancers and rural communities through these difficult times.

“We’re also telling Alabama producers that USDA stands with you and your communities when severe weather and natural disasters threaten to disrupt your livelihood.”