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USDA declares drought a natural disaster in Elkhart County

The ongoing drought officially became an agricultural disaster Friday, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture including Elkhart, LaGrange, Kosciusko and St. Joseph Counties in the list of counties designated as disaster areas

Posted on July 13, 2012 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on July 13, 2012 at 4:15 p.m.

GOSHEN — Elkhart County and its Indiana neighboring counties are among the 36 counties declared natural disaster areas due to the drought, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Friday.

“The summer of 2012 will not be long forgotten by those producers and their families that were negatively impacted by severe dry weather,” said Julia Wickard, Indiana executive director of the USDA Farm Service Agency, said in the written announcement.

Earlier this week the USDA announced a streamlined process for declaring disasters, giving lower emergency loan rates to farmers in the area, dropping the rates from 3.75 percent to 2.25 percent.

“Agriculture remains a bright spot in our nation’s economy and it is increasingly important that USDA has the tools to act quickly and deliver assistance to farmers and ranchers when they need it most,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack Wednesday, announcing the new rules.

Friday, Wickard said, “Indiana FSA and its employees are committed to helping farmers navigate the multitude of programs that may be available in eligible counties.”

Elkhart, St. Joseph, Marshall, Kosciusko, Noble and LaGrange Counties are all in the disaster area. Farmers in those counties have eight months to apply for loans to help cover part of their losses.

The USDA also has resources for farmers dealing with the drought at www.usda.gov/disaster.

As of this week, Elkhart County was in severe and extreme drought conditions, according to the National Weather Service in North Webster. That means water shortages, the potential for major crop or pasture losses and serious fire danger. Goshen is nearly nine inches behind average precipitation for the year, the NWS reported Thursday.

“The hot and dry weather in June only intensified ongoing drough conditions across the area,” wrote Courtney Obergfell, meteorologist with the NWS.


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