USDA Renews Vog Disaster Declaration for Big Island
by Dave Smith
Farmers and ranchers on the Big Island who have suffered damage from volcanic emissions are again eligible for federal assistance.
The US Department of Agriculture on Wednesday renewed the federal disaster declaration based on vog emissions from Kilauea volcano. Farmers have eight months in which to apply for loans to help cover losses to crops and critical infrastructure.
While vog has been a problem for Big Island farmers ever since the current eruption of Kilauea began in 1983, those in Ka‘u and South Kona have seen heightened damage since the opening of a new vent at the volcano’s summit in 2008.
Particularly hard hit have been farmers of leafy vegetables and flowers, including those under greenhouses. Vog has also impacted ranchers by causing damage to grass and other forage as well as premature corrosion to fencing and gates.
The vog declaration, which was requested by Gov. Neil Abercrombie on Jan. 27 and announced today, triggers the same variety of federal programs authorized by last month’s renewal of the drought declaration for the Big Island.
Portions of Hawaii County, particularly in leeward areas, have been suffering drier-than-normal conditions for years. According to officials with the USDA’s Farm Service Agency, approximately 10 emergency loans totaling roughly $300,000 have been issued since the first disaster declaration in 2006.
Miki Miyasato, manager of the FSA farm loan programs on the Big Island, said the number is relatively low because those applying for emergency loans often qualify for other FSA assistance programs. She said that includes operating loans carrying an interest rate lower than the current rate of 3.75% for emergency loans as well as non-loan payments.
“The emergency loans are just one of the programs,” Miyasato said.
The other assistance includes the Livestock Forage Program that over the past four years has provided more than $10 million in payments to Big Island ranchers who have suffered losses from the drought.
However, authorization under the 2008 Farm Bill for the Livestock Forage Program and several similar programs, such as Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments (SURE), has lapsed and FSA officials are awaiting the passage of the 2012 Farm Bill to see what will be made available.
For information on emergency loans and other USDA programs contact the Hilo office of the Farm Service Agency at 933-8381, extension 2, or visit http://disaster.fsa.usda.gov.