Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

State News

January 11, 2013

Feds declare all Okla. counties drought disaster areas

EDMOND — All of Oklahoma’s 77 counties have been declared drought disaster areas by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Most of Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma are experiencing extreme to exceptional drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor’s update released Jan. 1.

The severity scale ranges from abnormally dry on the low end to exceptional on the high end.

On Wednesday, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack designated 598 counties in 14 states as primary natural disaster areas due to drought and heat, making all qualified farm operators in the areas eligible for low-interest emergency loans.

States with counties designated as disaster areas are: Alabama (14), Arkansas (47), Arizona (4), Colorado (30), Georgia (92), Hawaii (2), Kansas (88), Oklahoma (77), Missouri (31), New Mexico (19), Nevada (9), South Carolina (11), Texas (157) and Utah (17).

These are the first disaster designations made by the USDA in 2013. The 598 counties have shown a drought intensity value of at least D2 (Drought Severe) for eight consecutive weeks based on U.S. Drought Monitor measurements, providing for an automatic designation.

“As drought persists, USDA will continue to partner with producers to see them through longer-term recovery, while taking the swift actions needed to help farmers and ranchers prepare their land and operations for the upcoming planting season,”  Vilsack said via a news release.

Vilsack said he would continue to work with Congress to encourage passage of a food, farm and jobs bill that would give rural America the long-term certainty they need, including a strong and defensible safety net.

A natural disaster designation makes all qualified farm operators in the designated areas eligible for low interest emergency loans. During times of need, USDA has historically responded to disasters across the country by providing direct support, disaster assistance, technical assistance and access to credit.

In 2012, USDA designated 2,245 counties in 39 states as disaster areas due to drought, or 71 percent of the United States.

The Drought Monitor is produced in partnership by USDA, the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It helps USDA determine county disaster designations due to drought.

For more information about the specific state designations, visit the Farm Service Agency’s disaster designations page. Visit www.usda.gov/drought for the latest information regarding USDA’s drought response and assistance.

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