Disaster assistance available in farm loans

Jan. 15, 2014 @ 07:03 PM

Farmers in Vance and Granville counties may be eligible for emergency farm loans because of weather damage to their crops.

On Jan. 8, 2014, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack declared a natural disaster in parts of North Carolina because of the excessive rainfall and flooding that took place during 2013.

Granville County was one of six counties in North Carolina that were declared eligible for federal disaster assistance. Nineteen additional counties, including Vance County, were declared eligible because they are contiguous to disaster counties.

The loans will be provided through the USDA’s Farm Service Agency.

Betty Kornegay, executive director of the Granville County FSA, said a county was declared a disaster if 35 percent of a crop was lost due to natural conditions.

“Granville County was declared a disaster county because of the flooding in January and right up through the growing season,” she said. “The five crops are cotton, oats, soy beans, tobacco and wheat.”

The program offers low-interest loans to help farmers recover from production and physical losses due to natural disasters. The farmer does not have to document the amount of loss due to the disaster, Kornegy said.

“To be eligible, he has to establish his net worth,” Kornegy said.

The Granville County FSA office is located at 146 Main St. in Oxford. The telephone number is (919) 693-7345.

Granville County Cooperative Extension Director Paul Westfall said, “Last year was a very wet year. In the spring, farmers had trouble planting. In the fall they had trouble harvesting their crops.”

Wet weather interfered with insect control, he said.

“The farmer would spray his field and then a heavy rain would wash it off,” Westfall said. “Later in the year it was like the spigot was turned off.”

The combination of factors resulted in a drop in production.

“The tobacco crop was light,” Westfall said. “The yield per acre was down.”

He said the emergency farm loan program is a tool farmers can use to recoup some of their losses.

A fact sheet provided by the Farm Service Agency states the loans may be used to restore essential property, pay for production costs and family living expenses, reorganize the farming operation or refinance existing debts.

The amount a farmer can borrow depends on individual circumstances, said Dock Jones, farm loan officer in the Wake County office. It may be as much as 100 percent of the farmer’s loss, up to a maximum of $500,000.

“Part of our calculation looks at county averages and the per-year yield to determine how much a person can borrow. It’s pretty much an individual thing,” Jones said.

He said a farmer should meet with the local Farm Service Agency to determine eligibility.

Christeen Crudup, executive director of the Vance-Warren FSA, said, “We do have farmers in Vance County who may be looking for loans. It will have to be repaid,” she said. “That may discourage some farmers.”

But, she added, the loans can be very useful to help a farmer deal with cash-flow problems.

She encouraged farmers to visit the FSA office at 853 S. Beckford Drive, Suite B, in Henderson to determine their eligibility or call (252) 438-3134.

Contact the writer at dirvine@hendersondispatch.com.