UNION COUNTY — Even though Union County has not been declared a disaster area due to drought local farmers and ranchers still qualify for natural disaster assistance because of the county’s proximity to those counties that have been declared disaster areas.
On Sept. 9, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) designated 35 counties in South Carolina as primary natural disaster areas due to damages and losses caused by excessive heat and drought that occurred from May 1, 2015, and continues. Those counties are Aiken, Chester, Edgefield, Laurens, Pickens, Allendale, Chesterfield, Florence, Lee, Richland, Bamberg, Clarendon, Georgetown, Lexington, Saluda, Barnwell, Colleton, Greenville, Marion, Spartanburg, Berkeley, Darlington, Horry, Marlboro, Sumter, Calhoun, Dillon, Kershaw, Newberry, Williamsburg, Cherokee, Dorchester, Lancaster, Orangeburg, and York.
In issuing the declaration, US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said “Our hearts go out to those South Carolina 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, ranchers, and rural communities through these difficult times. We’re also telling South Carolina producers that USDA stands with you and your communities when severe weather and natural disasters threaten to disrupt your livelihood.”
Farmers and ranchers in the following counties in South Carolina also qualify for natural disaster assistance because their counties are contiguous. Those counties are Abbeville, Fairfield, McCormick, Anderson, Greenwood, Oconee, Beaufort, Hampton, Union, and Charleston.
Farmers and ranchers in the following counties in Georgia and North Carolina also qualify for natural disaster assistance because their counties are contiguous. Thoe counties in Georgia are Burke, Columbia, Richmond and Screven. The counties in North Carolina are Anson, Gaston, Richmond, Transylvania, Brunswick, Henderson, Robeson, Union, Cleveland, Mecklenburg, Rutherford, Columbus, Polk, and Scotland.
All counties listed above were designated natural disaster areas on Sep. 9, 2015, making all qualified farm operators in the designated areas eligible for low interest emergency (EM) loans from USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA), provided eligibility requirements are met. Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of the declaration to apply for loans to help cover part of their actual losses. FSA will consider each loan application on its own merits, taking into account the extent of losses, security available and repayment ability. FSA has a variety of programs, in addition to the EM loan program, to help eligible farmers recover from adversity.
Additional programs available to assist farmers and ranchers include the Emergency Conservation Program, The Livestock Forage Disaster Program, the Livestock Indemnity Program, the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program, and the Tree Assistance Program. Interested farmers may contact their local USDA Service Centers for further information on eligibility requirements and application procedures for these and other programs. Additional information is also available online at http://disaster.fsa.usda.gov.
USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (866) 632-9992 (Toll-free Customer Service), (800) 877-8339 (Local or Federal relay), (866) 377-8642 (Relay voice users).