USDA declares Berrien, Cass counties natural disaster areas

Published 9:15 pm Monday, December 13, 2010

WASHINGTON— The U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated 32 counties in Michigan — including Berrien and Cass — as natural disaster areas due to losses caused by frost and freezing weather that occurred March 1 through May 16.

“President Obama and I understand these conditions caused severe damage to field crops as well as a wide variety of specialty fruit and vegetable crops, and we want to help,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. “This action will provide help to hundreds of farmers who suffered significant production losses.”

The counties are Berrien, Cass, Van Buren, St. Joseph, Allegan, Manistee, Osceola, Jackson, Antrim, Mason, Otsego, Kalamazoo, Benzie, Mecosta, Ottawa, Kent, Montcalm, St. Clair, Lake, Muskegon, Lapeer, Newaygo, Leelanau, Ingham, Oakland, Washtenaw, Livingston, Isabella, Oceana, Wayne and Macomb.

Farmers and ranchers in the following counties in Michigan also qualify for natural disaster assistance because their counties are contiguous: Barry, Crawford, Ionia, Montmorency, Branch, Kalkaska, Oscoda. Eaton, Calhoun, Lenawee, Sanilac, Genesee, Charlevoix, Midland, Shiawassee, Gladwin, Cheboygan, Missaukee, Tuscola, Gratiot, Clare, Monroe, Wexford, Hillsdale and Clinton.

Farmers and ranchers in the following counties in Indiana also qualify for natural disaster assistance because they are contiguous: Elkhart, St. Joseph, LaPorte and Lagrange.

All counties listed were designated natural disaster areas Dec. 8, 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.