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Cass tagged a disaster area

Published 7:30pm Tuesday, February 28, 2012

LANSING — Gov. Rick Snyder Tuesday announced that U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack designated 45 counties in Michigan as natural disaster areas for three separate occurrences in February and May 2011.

Cass, Berrien and Van Buren were among 29 counties designated primary natural disaster areas due to losses caused by the combined effects of excessive rain, high winds, hail, freeze, frost, blizzard, tornadoes, flooding and lightning that occurred from Feb. 1, 2011, and continues.

“Our farmers and producers experienced multiple severe weather conditions causing crop losses,” Snyder said. “This disaster designation insures our farmers and producers have access to additional federal resources to overcome Mother Nature’s challenges and remain viable producers of food for both national and international markets.”

The counties designated by USDA as natural disaster areas on Jan. 27 means that qualified farm operators are 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.

For Michigan to receive federal disaster status, original crop loss estimates must be verified from harvest yield data.  If losses of 30 percent or more are confirmed, and the disaster request is granted, eligible state producers have access to USDA-FSA’s low-interest emergency loan program for up to 100 percent of their weather-related agriculture production losses. USDA-FSA is the agency responsible for compiling the official crop loss statistics and administering the federal emergency farm loan programs.

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