Nebraska Gov. Mike Johanns received word this week that U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman has designated 19 Nebraska counties as disaster areas due to the ongoing drought. The Governor also requested additional designations for the western Nebraska counties of Box Butte, Dawes and Sheridan due to the drought.
“With conditions worsening in western Nebraska, this designation is important to open the door for federal relief,” Gov. Johanns said. “I will continue my efforts to access any and all available assistance to help ag producers who are battling the drought, starting with the request I submitted today to add three counties to the disaster declaration.”
The 19 counties approved for disaster relief are Arthur, Banner, Chase, Cheyenne, Deuel, Dundy, Frontier, Garden, Hayes, Hitchcock, Keith, Kimball, Lincoln, McPherson, Morrill, Perkins, Red Willow, Scotts Bluff and Sioux. Two additional counties included in the Governor’s disaster designation request last month, Box Butte and Grant, were not approved because they were based on anticipated losses.
The Governor also sent a letter to Secretary Veneman requesting the addition of Dawes and Sheridan Counties to the declaration and resubmitting Box Butte County for consideration. The actual losses in Box Butte County now exceed the disaster threshold of at least a 30 percent loss of production.
The Governor’s requests are based on recommendations from the Nebraska U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) State Emergency Board. The SEB reviews damage assessment reports from USDA County Emergency Boards to determine production losses.
An agricultural disaster designation provides producers with access to an emergency low-interest loan program. The designation also opens the door to the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) disaster set-aside program, which allows existing FSA direct loan borrowers to set aside their FSA loan payment if they cannot make the payment as a result of the disaster. It also unlocks access to the Small Business Administration’s disaster loan program for businesses impacted as a result of the disaster, and provides documentation for the Internal Revenue Service to allow producers to defer income on forced livestock sales due to the disaster.
In addition, the designation can be used to determine county eligibility for other FSA disaster programs, should Congress provide funding for such programs.
“The ag producers experiencing significant losses due to drought deserve the same consideration for assistance that is given victims of other natural disasters,” Gov. Johanns said. “While I very much appreciate the drought disaster assistance that has been made available at the federal level, I feel strongly that we need a national drought policy to ensure that aid is predictable and consistent – not hit or miss.”
Disaster designations have helped Nebraska producers to access more than $350 million in federal assistance in the past five years through the Livestock Assistance Program (LAP), the Livestock Compensation Program (LCP) and the Crop Disaster Program (CDP).
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