The process to get your county declared as a disaster is still the same. Usually a request comes from the Farm Service Agency county committee to Julia Wickard, state FSA director. She in turn submits it to the Governor’s office. From there, it goes to Washington for approval.
USDA Secretary Vilsack added another way for counties to get on the disaster list. On average, Michael Scuse, undersecretary of agriculture, says that it now takes only 29 days to turn around a disaster request, where the average before was 85 days.
The new system involves automatic disaster declarations for counties that have been in a certain stage of drought for an extended period, whether the county committee has requested it yet or not. The system is based on reports from the U.S. Drought monitor, with a new report released each Thursday.
Counties that are classified in a D3 drought automatically are moved along in the process for receiving disaster declaration under the FSA system.
Julia Wickard, FSAS executive director in Indiana, says that once a county has been in a D2 drought for 8 consecutive weeks according to the drought monitor report, it becomes a D3 county and begins moving through the disaster declaration process.
The result of the new policy implemented this year means that counties have been declared as disaster counties was much quicker than in the past. USDA undersecretary Michael Scuse, who visited the Midwest this week, says it’s one of the ways that USDA listened to what farmers who have suffered through these disaster s before noted, and have responded. The quicker turnaround in declaring disaster counties mean farmers will be eligible for help under disaster programs sooner.
Right now, there is only one bullet in FSA’s gun- low interest loans. The secretary also dropped the interest rate in response to farmer’s concerns a year ago. However, you still must be turned down by other commercial borrowers to qualify for the loan.