Suffolk declared disaster area

Published 10:51 pm Thursday, November 11, 2010

Drought and heat this summer affected many crops, including this cotton boll.

Farmers in Suffolk now are eligible to apply for low-interest loans and other aid after federal officials designated the city a natural disaster area.

Drought and excessive heat caused massive losses for area farmers. In August, local agencies predicted a 90-percent yield loss in corn and an 80-percent yield loss in pasture in Suffolk. In late October, cotton yields were expected to be around 50 percent, with soybean and peanut projections looking even worse.

To qualify for a disaster declaration, authorities only needed to show a 30-percent yield loss in one crop in a particular locality. The designation makes farmers eligible for low-interest loans and any supplemental relief that might be approved by Congress.

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The bizarre, record-breaking weather this summer featured a drought that covered more than two-thirds of the state and long strings of high temperatures over 90 degrees. The heat and drought also affected livestock in the state, according to a press release from Gov. Bob McDonnell’s office.

Neighboring Isle of Wight and Southampton counties also have been named disaster areas. Statewide, a total of 59 counties qualified for the designation. Suffolk was the only independent city to do so.

Localities that border those that receive the designation qualify as contiguous disaster areas. Farm operators in both primary and contiguous areas are eligible to be considered for low-interest emergency loans from the Farm Service Agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, provided they meet certain eligibility requirements. Farmers have eight months from the date of the declaration to apply. FSA then considers each application by taking into account the extent of the losses, security available and ability to repay.

Farmers can get more information by contacting the Suffolk Farm Service Agency office at 539-9265 or visiting at 1548 Holland Road, Suite 100.