Indiana farmers are eligible for assistance under a secretarial natural disaster designation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Gov. Eric Holcomb recently announced.

This was in response to a letter Holcomb sent to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue in July, requesting assistance due to the excessive rain and flooding farmers experienced during planting season.

“I am grateful that Secretary Perdue and his team recognized the hardships Hoosier farmers experienced this planting season,” the governor said. “As a result of this designation, farmers in all 92 counties are now eligible for assistance, and I encourage those impacted to work with their local Farm Service Agency office.”

Seventy-four counties were designated as primary natural disaster areas. USDA deferred its decision on the remaining 18 counties. However, since they border one or more of the primary disaster areas, they are considered contiguous disaster counties – allowing farm operators in those areas to be eligible for the same assistance.

Under a secretarial natural disaster designation, farm operators in primary and contiguous counties are eligible for assistance from the Farm Service Agency, provided certain requirements are met. This includes access to low-interest FSA emergency loans, which may be used to restore or replace essential property, pay all or part of production costs associated with the disaster year, pay essential family living expenses, reorganize the farming operation and refinance certain debts.

In order to qualify, farm operators must show at least a 30 percent loss in crop production or a physical loss to livestock, livestock products, real estate or chattel property. Farmers can borrow up to 100 percent of actual production or physical losses to a maximum amount of $500,000, according to USDA.

“This has been an unprecedented year for Indiana farmers,” said Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, Indiana’s secretary of agriculture and rural development. “I applaud Governor Holcomb, the Indiana Farm Service Agency and our state department of agriculture for making this assistance available.”

In addition to emergency loans, farmers with existing FSA loans, who are unable to make their payments, may be eligible to have certain payments deferred. Farmers are encouraged to work with their local FSA offices for assistance regarding payment forbearance or emergency disaster loans.

“Farmers, who have been doing this their entire lives, acknowledge this has been one of the toughest seasons on record, and we’re not in the clear yet,” said Bruce Kettler, Indiana State Department of Agriculture director. “While we know this isn’t a cure-all solution, this assistance is welcome news and will help those severely impacted.”

The deadline to apply for emergency loans is April 29, 2020.

For a list of Farm Service Agency offices in Indiana, go to www.fsa.usda.gov. More information about FSA’s Emergency Farm Loans can be found at  https://www.fsa.usda.gov/programs-and-services/farm-loan-programs/emergency-farm-loans/index

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