Indiana has officially requested that 53 Indiana counties be included in a secretarial disaster declaration by USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. The request was made by Governor Mike Pence in a letter also signed by Lt. Governor Sue Ellspermann and Indiana FSA Executive Director Julia Wickard. Wickard explained what farmers affected by crop damage and losses from this year’s flooding and excessive rain can expect if disaster is declared.
“As part of the 2014 farm bill that was passed a part of that language allows that in any county of a secretarial disaster designated county that producers in that county could be eligible for low interest emergency loans.”
She said it’s important that there was a joint effort by the state and federal government in making the request. FSA is an agency of USDA. How quickly can the request be granted?
“Well we certainly alerted our national office before this process began that we thought we would be seeking some assistance,” she told HAT. “We wanted to give them appropriate notice that something would be coming but we also know that we have areas of the country that are experiencing wildfires and other areas of our Midwest have flooding issues, so we know their hands are full with a lot of different requests that have come in, but I’m confident that we have supplied them the appropriate documentation that we can get something turned around relatively shortly for assistance to be available to our farmers in the state.”
In 50 counties, reported crop damage and losses have met or exceeded 30 percent of a crop, and three counties have experienced a significant number of damages and losses to multiple crops. Under the disaster designation, low-interest emergency loans will be made available to all producers suffering losses in that county, as well as in counties contiguous to a disaster-designated county.
Wickard encourages farmers to continue to submit crop damage reports to their county FSA offices as the disaster event is ongoing and continued monitoring is necessary to determine if additional counties should be added to the declaration request.
“Recent and unprecedented heavy rainfall across our state has had a significant impact on the yield of Indiana crops and our Hoosier farmers,” said Governor Pence. “As promised, our administration has been closely monitoring this situation and, in coordination with the Indiana Farm Service Agency, has determined federal emergency loan assistance is both prudent and warranted. Hoosier farmers can be assured that we will continue to keep a close eye on the long-term effects of this year’s heavy rains and, as needed, work to identify additional help for those in our state’s agriculture industry.”
“The record-setting rainfall this summer throughout much of Indiana has caused many Hoosier farmers to experience significant crops losses,” said Lieutenant Governor Sue Ellspermann. “Fields are flooded by overflowing streams or covered by standing water from drenching rain. We are very grateful for the strong cooperation of the Farm Service Administration in expediting this special Secretarial disaster declaration request.”
Indiana counties included are:
Also Friday Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly, who serves on the Senate Agriculture Committee, sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack urging USDA to grant the disaster declaration for 53 of Indiana’s 92 counties impacted by excessive rainfall. Donnelly wrote the letter in strong support of the joint request from the state and Indiana FSA office.
Donnelly wrote, “Much of Indiana has experienced excessive and prolonged rainfall, beginning in May and continuing to fall at record-breaking rates through the present. The extreme levels of rain have caused irreparable damage to planted fields and rendered others unplantable throughout the state… Thousands of farmers in Indiana are going to experience significant financial losses this year and this will be a particularly difficult time for young and limited resource farmers. I would appreciate your immediate and favorable consideration of a disaster declaration for these counties so that resources can be made available to help deal with these crops losses.”
Donnelly’s letter comes after he visited Merritt Farm in early July in Peru, Indiana, to get a first-hand view of the effect excess rain is having on crops and farmers.
Full text of the letter to Secretary Vilsack follows.
July 31, 2015
The Honorable Thomas J. Vilsack
Secretary of Agriculture
United States Department of Agriculture
Washington, DC 20250
Dear Secretary Vilsack,
I am writing to express my strong support for the joint request from Indiana’s Governor, Lt. Governor, and Executive Director of Indiana’s Farm Service Agency for a disaster declaration for 53 of Indiana’s 92 counties. Much of Indiana has experienced excessive and prolonged rainfall, beginning in May and continuing to fall at record-breaking rates through the present.
The extreme levels of rain have caused irreparable damage to planted fields and rendered others unplantable throughout the state. Tens of thousands of acres still have living plants, but will only produce a portion of the typical yield due to poor root development and interruptions to fertilizer and herbicide application patterns.
Thousands of farmers in Indiana are going to experience significant financial losses this year and this will be a particularly difficult time for young and limited resource farmers. I would appreciate your immediate and favorable consideration of a disaster declaration for these counties so that resources can be made available to help deal with these crops losses.
U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly