Lee Craig, the county executive director of the USDA Farm Services Agency (FSA) in Powell, is working on behalf of area farmers to obtain relief through the federal program. There are multiple steps involved in getting the relief money into the …
Recent frigid weather hit area farmers hard, but a federal disaster relief program may provide financial assistance to make up for a portion of crop revenue affected by the record cold snap.According to a U.S. Department of Agriculture fact sheet, the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments (SURE) program, part of the 2008 Farm Bill, “provides benefits for farm revenue losses due to natural disaster.”
Lee Craig, the county executive director of the USDA Farm Services Agency (FSA) in Powell, is working on behalf of area farmers to obtain relief through the federal program. There are multiple steps involved in getting the relief money into the hands of local farmers, Craig said.
“The FSA county committee requests that the (Park) County commissioners go to the governor. The governor, in turn, if his office agrees, submits a request to the USDA Secretary of Agriculture asking for a natural disaster declaration,” he said. “They then come to my state office and ask them to contact me for the data to support the request. Right now, I'm working on gathering the data.”
The data will involve temperatures, but, Craig said, “I (also) have to support the reason for crop loss, provide estimates of crop losses and dollar values. (We have to determine) the value of crops after losses, and we have to be able to document that. There has to be a 30 percent crop loss in order to get the (disaster) declaration. I think because of the value of the crops affected, a 30 percent (loss) won't be hard to document this year.”
The sugar-beet crop isn't the only crop affected by the recent cold temps. Bean growers and others may be eligible for disaster relief, but, according to Craig, there are restrictions.
“You (farmers) have to have had insurance on your crops in order to qualify (for disaster relief),” he said. “I guess Congress decided if you didn't seek some kind of risk protection on your own, they weren't going to pay you.”
Craig said he suspects the “majority would have insurance,” but he's also confident in saying not all local farmers have coverage. He added that sugar beets are a hardy crop that can withstand a variety of conditions, including cold temperatures.
“Sugar beets are a pretty safe bet,” he said, as a way of explaining why some sugar-beet growers opt to not purchase insurance.
According to the USDA, payments are available to producers whose farms are “located in a county covered by a qualifying natural disaster declaration” or on which “the actual production is less than 50 percent of the normal production.”
Craig will get the ball rolling soon by submitting a letter to the Park County Commission on behalf of the Farm Services Agency county committee, asking them to forward the disaster declaration request to the governor's office. After the letter is sent, it's unclear how long it will take to obtain a declaration and the ensuing relief payments.
“It's not real critical that it be tomorrow,” he said. “The SURE program requires that we wait for the entire marketing year for grain crops. Farmers in the 2009 program won't sign up (for relief) until the fall of 2010.”
If the disaster declaration request is approved, it won't be the first time in Park County. Craig said there was a drought declaration in 2007, and “possibly in '06,” and there also have been disaster situations due to summer hail storms.