Federal disaster loans available

Published 10:32 pm Friday, November 13, 2015

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Small Business Administration have announced aid to Suffolk farmers, small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives and private nonprofit organizations that suffered losses in the flooding that occurred during the period from Sept. 22 through Oct. 4.

The USDA’s disaster declaration includes Suffolk and seven other Southside Virginia cities and counties contiguous to 11 primary disaster areas in North Carolina.

“Our hearts go out to those … farmers and ranchers affected by recent natural disasters,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a press release.

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“President Obama and I are committed to ensuring that agriculture remains a bright spot in our nation’s economy by sustaining the successes of America’s farmers, ranchers and rural communities through these difficult times. We’re also telling … producers that USDA stands with you and your communities when severe weather and natural disasters threaten to disrupt your livelihood.”

The federal government listed the Virginia and North Carolina communities, as well as two in South Carolina, as natural disaster areas on Nov. 4.

The designation makes qualified farm operators in those areas eligible for low-interest emergency loans from USDA’s Farm Service Agency.

Farmers in eligible counties and cities have eight months from the declaration date to apply for loans to help cover portions of their actual losses. FSA has a variety of other programs also available to help eligible farmers recover from their losses.

Interested farmers should contact their local USDA Service Centers for more information about eligibility and for applications. More information is also available online at www.disaster.fsa.usda.gov.

The Small Business Administration’s declaration coincided with that of the USDA.

“When the Secretary of Agriculture issues a disaster declaration to help farmers recover from damages and losses to crops, the Small Business Administration issues a declaration to eligible entities affected by the same disaster,” Frank Skaggs, director of SBA’s Field Operations Center East in Atlanta, explained in a press release.

The disaster declaration means the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program is available to eligible entities that suffered financial losses as a direct result of the flooding. With the exception of aquaculture enterprises, SBA cannot provide disaster loans to agricultural producers, farmers or ranchers, according to the release.

The loan amount can be up to $2 million, with interest rates of 2.625 percent for nonprofit organizations and 4 percent for small businesses, with terms up to 30 years.

SBA loans can be used to pay fixed debts, payroll accounts payable and other bills that could have been paid if the disaster had not occurred. The loans are not intended to replace lost sales or profits.

For more information, or for an application, visit disasterloan.sba.gov/ela, call SBA’s customer service center at 1-800-659-2955 or send an email to disastercustomerservice@sba.gov.

Completed SBA loan applications must be received by July 5.