Federal officials have declared 23 southern and central Wisconsin counties as natural disaster areas, making farms in those areas eligible for low-interest emergency loans. The areas have been baked by recent heat waves in which temperatures sizzled into the 100-degree range and left severe drought conditions that took a major toll on crop production.
The disaster designation was announced Wednesday by the USDA.
Counties with disaster area designations are Adams, Columbia, Crawford, Dane, Dodge, Fond du Lac, Grant, Green, Green Lake, Iowa, Jefferson, Kenosha, Lafayette, Marquette, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Richland, Rock, Sauk, Walworth, Washington and Waukesha counties.
Wisconsin Sixth Congressional Rep. Tom Petri, who represents Fond du Lac and Dodge counties, told The Associated Press he is pleased with the declaration. "The drought conditions are just terrible for Wisconsin's farmers and they need help,' he said. "This is officially an 'extreme drought' affecting several crops including corn, alfalfa, and soybeans."
Gov. Scott Walker requested the declaration last week. The following day, Petri joined other members of Wisconsin's congressional delegation in sending a letter supporting the governor's request.
Also on Wednesday, Walker said the state will begin accepting applications for its Drought Relief Guarantee Program. The program would provide a 90% guarantee on agricultural loans up to $15,000 for three years. In addition, WHEDA will provide an interest reduction payment to its lender partners which will allow for a lower interest rate loan for drought-affected farms.