Just one day after announcing there were 91 counties in Indiana eligible for disaster aid because they were either primary disaster counties or bordered one, the Farm Service Agency notified everyone that Lake County, the lone county not yet in that category, had joined the list.
At the same time, due to recent rains, the U.S. Drought Monitor actually showed some improvement, with only 17 counties in the southwestern corner of the state still in the exceptional drought category, down from 25 the week before. However, another 40-plus counties remained in the extreme drought county. It didn't take a week of hot, dry weather to reach drought status, and it will take more than a couple good rains in a week to move counties out of it.
Right now all the disaster declaration does is make counties eligible for low interest loans. Earlier in the summer USDA Ag Secretary Vilsack reduced the interest rate on those loans from 3.75 to 2.25%.
"We haven't actually made any loans under this program due to this year's disaster declaration yet, but we have had lots of inquiries," says Julia Wickard, Hancock County, executive director of the Farm Service Agency in Indiana.
Besides FSA offices, there are also nine loan offices around the state for USDA that can handle these low-interest loans. Someone interested in a loan can inquire at their local FSA office. If they seek a loan, they will likely be referred to one of the nine offices where loans are made, Wickard says.
One thing you must do to be eligible for a low-interest loan in a disaster county is to meet the credit test. In this case, it's somewhat different than meeting credit requirements from a conventional lender. In fact, you must be unable to obtain credit anywhere else to obtain the low interest loan.
Since the other provisions that applied to disaster declarations from the 2008 Farm Bill expired in 2011, right now there are no other benefits to producers for being in a disaster county, Wickard concludes.