Emer­gency fed­eral loans of lit­tle com­fort to New­ton County farm­ers

USDA re­cently des­ig­nated county a dis­as­ter area

The Covington News - - LOCAL NEWS - By Rachel Oswald

While the fed­eral gov­ern­ment has ap­proved the dis­pen­sa­tion of low in­ter­est emer­gency loans to farm­ers in Ge­or­gia stricken by drought, the re­ac­tion of farm­ers in New­ton County to the news has been less than en­thused.

At the end of July, the U.S. De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture des­ig­nated 158 Ge­or­gia coun­ties (in­clud­ing New­ton) as dis­as­ter ar­eas due to agri­cul­ture dam­age from the ef­fects of the two-year drought ac­cord­ing to a press re­lease from Ge­or­gia Com­mis­sioner of Agri­cul­ture Tommy Irvin’s of­fice. As a re­sult farm­ers in Ge­or­gia are now el­i­gi­ble to ap­ply for emer­gency loan as­sis­tance from the Farm Ser­vice Agency

Ac­cord­ing to the re­lease, a county must have in­curred a loss of 30 per­cent or more in dol­lar value for all crops, or of a sin­gle crop or group of crops to re­ceive a dis­as­ter des­ig­na­tion.

While farm­ers in New­ton County have only been el­i­gi­ble to ap­ply for the loan as­sis­tance for the past two weeks, few if any have ap­plied for the as­sis­tance yet.

Lori-Ann Branch, a farm loan man­ager with the FSA in Ea­ton­ton, whose area in­cludes New­ton County, said she hasn’t seen much in­ter­est in ap­ply­ing for the loans from lo­cal farm­ers.

“A lot of th­ese farm­ers that have been out there strug­gling due to the econ­omy and mother na­ture, they’re tired of bor­row­ing money,” Branch said. “When you bor­row money there’s only so much you can pay back. I don’t care how cheap the in­ter­est is.”

Rather, Branch said many farm­ers are hop­ing that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment will pro­vide some ad­di­tional pro­gram ben­e­fits that the farm­ers won’t have to re­pay.

Brent Gal­loway, pres­i­dent of the New­ton County Farm Bureau and owner of Cir­cle G Farms, agreed with Branch’s as­sess­ment.

“This emer­gency loan that they made avail­able, in my opin­ion it’s nice that they’re do­ing it but we don’t need any more loans,” Gal­loway said. “We need some dis­as­ter re­lief. We need the gov­ern­ment to step in and help us be­cause this is a nat­u­ral dis­as­ter. It’s dev­as­tated our crops and the way we’re try­ing to make liv­ing.”

With 200 acres grow­ing wheat and soy­beans, 150 acres grow­ing hay and 200 heads of com­mer­cial beef cat­tle, Cir­cle G Farms is one of the largest farms in New­ton County. Gal­loway said that the pro­duc­tion of his farm has been greatly harmed as a re­sult of the drought.

Ac­cord­ing to Gal­loway, on a nor­mal year he would have cut his first hay crop on June 15 but be­cause of the drought he wasn’t able to har­vest any hay un­til Aug. 15. Ad­di­tion­ally the amount of hay grown was 50 per­cent less than a nor­mal yield.

The com­mer­cial calves that Gal­loway raises have been 20 per­cent lighter than nor­mal he said, on ac­count of fewer grass ar­eas to for­age.

While farm­ers will typ­i­cally raise their cat­tle on grass dur­ing the sum­mer and feed them hay dur­ing the win­ter, the drought has been ter­ri­ble for grass growth which has re­sulted in farm­ers feed­ing the hay to the cat­tle as soon as they can cut it, leav­ing no hay re­serves for win­ter.

“A lot of peo­ple have sold their cat­tle,” Gal­loway said. “A lot of peo­ple are go­ing to have to cut their herds in half to get through it.”

Added Branch, “We have a lot of farm­ers out there that have been strug­gling. The drought has been hor­ren­dous. The for­age sit­u­a­tion in a lot of the state of Ge­or­gia is hor­rific. There is no graz­ing, no sur­plus of hay. What’s be­ing bailed now from the first cut­ting is be­ing eaten as we speak.”

Gal­loway said that he has trav­eled to Wash­ing­ton, DC to lobby Congress to in­clude farm sub­si­dies in the latest farm bill. While the Con­gres­sional del­e­ga­tion from Ge­or­gia has been re­cep- tive to the con­cerns of farm­ers, Gal­loway said he has ba­si­cally been in­formed that for Congress to give more money to farm sub­si­dies, they would have to take it from an­other pro­gram such as the free lunch pro­gram, which is also in­cluded in the farm bill.

“If they give us money, they’re go­ing to have to take it from some other de­part­ment,” Gal­loway said. “The farm­ers only get 27 per­cent of the farm bill.”

To ap­ply for a loan

New­ton County farm­ers and ranch­ers are el­i­gi­ble to ap­ply for a USDA emer­gency loan if they have suf­fered at least a 30-per­cent loss in crop pro­duc­tion or phys­i­cal live­stock. They must also have an ac­cept­able credit his­tory, be un­able to re­ceive credit from other com­mer­cial sources, be able to pro­vide col­lat­eral to se­cure the loan, have the abil­ity to re­pay the loan and be ei­ther cit­i­zens or per­ma­nent res­i­dents of the U.S.

Farm­ers can bor­row up to 100 per­cent of ac­tual pro­duc­tion or phys­i­cal losses, to a max­i­mum amount of $500,000. Loans for crop and live­stock losses are nor­mally re­paid within one to seven years. In spe­cial cir­cum­stances loans of up to 20 years may be au­tho­rized. The cur­rent an­nual in­ter­est rate for emer­gency loans is 3.75 per­cent.

“The money is set up to re­store that per­son to the con­di­tion they were in be­fore the dis­as­ter,” Branch said. “The money can’t be used for ex­pan­sion.”

To be ap­proved for a loan, farm­ers must pro­vide ac­cept­able farm records to the FSA and must op­er­ate in ac­cor­dance with a farm plan they de­velop and agree to with the FSA.

Branch said that farm­ers are typ­i­cally re­quired to turn in records of ac­tual yields for the three years prior to the dis­as­ter.

For more in­for­ma­tion on the emer­gency loan pro­gram call (706) 485-2341 or visit www.fsa. usda.gov.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.