U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has designated 15 Montana counties as primary natural disaster areas due to recent drought, including Flathead County.
Also listed were Lake, Glacier, Lincoln, Sanders, Missoula, Ravalli, Silver Bow, Powell, Pondera, Mineral, Lewis and Clark, Granite, Beaverhead, and Deer Lodge counties.
According to a July 15 letter written to Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, Vilsack declared the natural-disaster areas after they suffered from severe drought for eight or more weeks, or were classified as areas with extreme or exceptional drought.
Nine other counties were named as contiguous disaster counties, including Broadwater, Cascade, Choteau, Jefferson, Liberty, Madison, Meagher, Teton, and Toole, and eight contiguous counties in Idaho.
“A Secretarial disaster designation makes farm operators in primary counties and those counties contiguous to such primary counties eligible to be considered for certain assistance from the Farm Service Agency,” the memo said.
Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the July 15 disaster declaration date to apply for emergency loans, and Vilsack wrote that the FSA considers each emergency loan application “on its own merits” taking into account production losses on the farm and the security and repayment ability of the operator.
“Farmers from many Montana communities are feeling the impacts of drought conditions. This declaration will provide much needed assistance to agriculture producers that have seen or will have significant crop damage or loss,” Bullock said of the declaration. “With low snowpack and rain, we know many other communities throughout the state are struggling with dry conditions, and my administration will work closely with the USDA to monitor conditions and take any appropriate steps to provide assistance.”
Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the disaster declaration to apply for an emergency loan. Local FSA offices can provide affected farmers with more information. More information about this declaration can be found at: http://disaster.fsa.usda.gov.
The Montana Drought Advisory Committee, which is chaired by Lt. Gov. Angela McLean, will meet July 16, in Helena to discuss the latest drought conditions in the state.
On July 2, Flathead County declared an emergency based on drought conditions, though that emergency regarded fire danger and not crops.
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