More than half of Indiana’s 92 counties have been designated natural disaster areas by the federal government as drought continues to cripple the state’s crops. Fifty-five counties in Indiana, located largely in the northeast and southwest areas of the state, were labeled natural disaster areas by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
This will make low-interest emergency loans available to farmers who qualify based on how much of their crops are lost. The disaster designations came early than expected.
The state was preparing to request the federal help, but U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack beat them to the punch.
Under new rules adopted this week, Vilsack streamlined the disaster declaration process, reducing the time it takes to process disaster claims by as much as 40 percent.
State governors will no longer be required to ask for a disaster declaration. That allows the federal agency to simply designate a disaster area once a county is categorized as under a severe drought for eight consecutive weeks during the growing season. More counties could be added as disaster areas as the drought continues.