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Federal Farm Bill Passage Needed To Offset State Drought

With drought conditions threatening Indiana’s crops, the state is prepared to request emergency loans from the federal government to help out farmers.  But another type of safety net will be unavailable to farmers unless Congress acts.

Information on how many crops are being lost to the drought is currently being collected in county Farm Service Agency offices across the state.  Indiana Farm Service Agency Executive Director Julia Wickard says once certain thresholds are met at the county level – like yield losses and drought level – the state can request assistance.

“Hopefully within the next month, our office working in tandem with the Indiana state Department of Agriculture and the governor’s office will be submitting that request to the secretary of agriculture to designate if not all, most of Indiana’s counties as a potential secretarial disaster declaration,” she says.

The disaster declaration would make low interest loans available to farmers who qualify based on loss.  But another safety net – disaster relief money from the federal farm bill – expired last year.  Wickard says Congress needs to extend or supplement the current farm bill or pass a new one in order for those funds to go to farmers in need.

“Legislation is being crafted in Washington that will take into account those kinds of situations.  You know, we haven’t seen these conditions since 1988.”

Wickard says once the state requests a disaster declaration from the federal government, she expects a quick turnaround so farmers can begin applying for the emergency loans.

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