Friday, September 12, 2014

County requests disaster declaration

Intent is to secure more loans for farmers

Express Staff Writer

     Blaine County has asked that a federal disaster emergency be declared for the county due to crop losses caused by heavy rains last month. Such a declaration would expand the amount of federal loans available to farmers.

     The county commissioners sent a letter dated Sept. 9 to Farm Service Agency regional Executive Director Tom Snow asking him to request the declaration from U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsak.

     The letter made the following points:

  • Weather stations reported precipitation ranging from 1.56 to 2.57 inches of rain between Aug. 4 and Aug. 30. Normal August precipitation is 0.065 inches.
  • Damage was suffered throughout the county to 13,000 acres of barley, 20,000 acres of alfalfa and 1,500 acres of wheat.
  • Blaine County barley producers have suffered a 40 to 60 percent loss overall. Excessive rain and high humidity caused mold and sprouting before harvest. Most sprouted grains will not be able to be sold for intended uses. An average of 60 percent of malt barley will be rejected under contract standards. Storage also has presented problems.
  • In alfalfa, rain has delayed harvest and reduced quality, often severely, with values reduced up to 50 percent.
  • Excessive soil moisture has affected seed potatoes.

     Most local barley farmers have contracts to sell their crops at a set price to MillerCoors, near Twin Falls, or Anheuser-Busch, near Idaho Falls. However, the brewers reserve the right to reject barley that has begun to sprout due to wet weather. Farmers must then sell their crop as feed, at about half the price of malting barley.

     Federal loans provided through the Farm Service Agency are available for both regular operating costs and losses due to emergencies. Both can help farmers get their next year’s crop in. However, at about 3 percent, the emergency loan rate is a percentage point higher than that of regular operating loans. FSA Farm Loan specialist Dan Mattson said the emergency loans are useful only to farmers who have already borrowed the $300,000 maximum available through regular operating loans.

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