The USDA will provide low-interest emergency loans to farmers, ranchers and residents affected by severe drought in Cochise County.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack designated Cochise and five other Arizona counties as primary natural disaster areas because of extreme drought. The designation brings with it financial help to farmers, ranchers and small businesses under the 2014 U.S. Farm Bill signed into law Feb. 7.
The USDA’s Farm Service Agency is offering 3.25 percent interest on loans for 100 percent of production losses up to $500,000, which will be available until Oct. 27. Farmers and ranchers can apply if they have suffered at least 30 percent loss in crop production or livestock.
Non-farm and ranch businesses impacted by the drought are eligible for loans with 4 percent interest rates from the U.S. Small Business Association.
Douglas Littau, Cochise County FSA Farm Loan manager, said that he has not received any applications since the loans were made available on Feb. 26.
“It is early in the growing season so we will need to wait until the crops are harvested and see how extensive the losses will be,” he said. “We encourage ranchers and farmers to apply for the loans if they are in need.”
The U.S. Drought Monitoring program reports that about 2 percent of Arizona, including parts of Cochise, Pinal, and Graham counties, is suffering “exceptional” drought, the program’s second severe rating.
John Hart, president of Cochise’s Arizona Farm Bureau, grows corn, alfalfa, pinto beans and barley on his 880-ace farm in the Kansas Settlement outside Willcox. He said that his crops have not been critically affected by the lack of rainfall.
“We use well water pumped from underground reserves,” he said. “ We are more concerned with the rainfall seven to 10 years ago: the water that replenishes the reserves. If there was a drought then, we might have problems today.”
Steven Klump, a cattle rancher in Cochise, said that ranchers are not as dependent on rainwater.
“We are not in the same boat as the farmers,” he said. “We only rely on rain water for grazing. And at my ranch, we have reduced the number of cattle, which makes it easier to care for our livestock in periods of drought.”
To learn more:
For Farm Service Agency loans, visit fsa.usda.gov
For Small Business Administration loans, go to sba.gov/content/how-apply