Some counties declared primary natural disaster areas, farmers eligible for assistance

Some counties declared primary natural disaster areas, farmers eligible for assistance

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has declared 35 counties in the South Carolina primary natural disaster areas after severe drought and relentless heat over the summer. The counties were declared natural disaster areas on Sept. 9.

According to a news release from the department, farmers in the counties qualify for natural disaster assistance due to the damages caused by the extreme conditions. The release says they're eligible for low interest emergency loans from USDA's Farm Service Agency, provided that eligibility requirements are met.

Berkeley, Colleton, Dorchester, Georgetown, Orangeburg and Williamsburg are among the counties affected by the drought. Also affected are Aiken, Chester, Edgefield,Laurens, Pickens, Allendale, Chesterfield, Florence, Lee, Richland, Bamberg, Clarendon, Lexington, Saluda, Barnwell, Greenville, Marion, Spartanburg, Darlington, Horry, Marlboro, Sumter, Calhoun, Dillon, Kershaw, Newberry, Cherokee, Lancaster and York.

Neighboring farmers in Charleston County, Abbeville, Beaufort, Fairfield, Greenwood, Hampton, McCormick, Oconee and Union also qualify for assistance.

"Our hearts go out to those South Carolina farmers and ranchers affected by recent natural disasters," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "President Obama and I are committed to ensuring that agriculture remains a bright spot in our nation's economy by sustaining the successes of America's farmers, ranchers, and rural communities through these difficult times. We're also telling South Carolina producers that USDA stands with you and your communities when severe weather and natural disasters threaten to disrupt your livelihood."

The agency is also pledging to assist farmers and ranchers in several counties in Georgia and North Carolina.

The release says farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of the declaration to apply for loans to help cover part of their actual losses. FSA will consider each loan application on a case by case basis, the release says.

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