Georgia counties qualify for disaster aid

Summer rainfalls prompt fed help for farmers in Richmond, Columbia, Burke

Richmond, Columbia, Burke and Screven counties are among several in Georgia and South Carolina on a list of primary natural disaster areas, according to a letter from U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack.

His action came in response to S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley’s request for the designation on Aug. 13, because the summer’s heavy rainfall had harmed crops and soil conditions for future harvests.

Because counties in adjacent states are included as contiguous disaster areas, Effingham, Chatham, Burke, Richmond, Columbia and Screven counties in Georgia are also listed on Vilsack’s letter.

His decision allows farm operators in those counties to receive federal assistance, including low-interest emergency loans, if they meet other eligibility requirements.

“The Department of Agriculture has reviewed the (loss assessments) and has determined that there was sufficient production losses in 36 counties to warrant a secretarial disaster designation,” wrote Vilsack to South Carolina’s Republican governor on Wednesday.

“Therefore I am designating 36 counties as primary natural disaster areas due to losses caused by excessive rain that occurred from March 1, 2013, and continuing.”

Vilsack’s designation will allow farmers in both primary and contiguous counties can apply for federal Farms Service Agency emergency loans. Farmers have eight months to apply.

“I am pleased with Secretary Vilsack’s quick response to South Carolina’s request,” said S.C. Commissioner of Agriculture Hugh Weathers in a statement Wednesday.

“The agriculture industry contributes greatly to the state’s economy, and this unusually wet summer has impacted the work of our farmers.”

South Carolina’s 36 primary counties showed damage of greater than 30 percent, which largely affected wheat, soybeans, cotton,forage crops, and peaches.

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