USDA Declares Utah Natural Disaster Area
On Tuesday, United States Department of Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman designated Utah as a primary natural disaster area due to drought, insect infestation and high winds.
The designation comes as Utah is suffering through its fifth year in a row of severe drought conditions. Water storage and stream flows throughout the state are approximately half of normal and forecasted temperatures are expected to be above average with rainfall forecast to be less than normal.
The federal natural disaster declaration came several weeks following a formal request for assistance by Gov. Mike Leavitt.
"Utah farmers and ranchers desperately need this federal assistance," pointed out Leavitt. "I have asked commissioner of agriculture Cary Peterson to help drought and insect-infested counties receive full benefit from this disaster declaration."
Utah and Carbon County have battled five consecutive years of steadily intensifying drought conditions.
In fact, Utah is currently the driest state in the country, according to the USDA's Palmer drought index.
"I appreciate the timely action by Gov. Leavitt and Secretary Veneman in making this disaster designation," noted Peterson. "This makes some support programs and relief options available to Utah farmers and ranchers."
The statewide natural drought designation makes farm operators in all 29 Utah counties eligible to be considered for low-interest emergency loans from the U.S. Farm Service Agency, provided qualification requirements are met.
Addressing the natural disaster designation, Sen. Bob Bennett applauded the U.S. Department of Agriculture decision.
"Today's disaster designation will help Utah farm operators stay afloat during these devastating times," indicated Bennett. "As we face another year of drought, the ability of farmers and ranchers to apply for emergency loans, now possible through this designation, is a huge relief."
"I appreciate Secretary Veneman's quick decision on this designation and her continued efforts to provide Utah the needed resources to combat these conditions," added Bennett.
FSA will consider all loan applications on individual merits, taking into account the extent of losses, security available and repayment ability of impacted agriculture producers.
For additional information on the federal disaster emergency loan eligibility requirements or answers to questions regarding the designation, Carbon County residents may contact the Utah FSA office at (801) 524-4530.
Residents may also visit the state agency's website at www.fsa.usda.gov/UT or http://www.fsa.usda.gov/UT.