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Big Isle Drought Declaration Triggers USDA Loan Assistance

January 16, 2014, 11:55 AM HST (Updated January 16, 2014, 11:58 AM)
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The US Department of Agriculture has declared both Hawaii and Maui counties as disaster areas due to the ongoing drought.

The declaration makes farmers and ranchers facing extreme drought conditions eligible for low-interest emergency loan assistance from the Farm Service Agency.

The funds may be used to move water to livestock in need, provide emergency forage and rehabilitate lands impacted by the drought.

US Sen. Brian Schatz issued a statement calling the drought conditions in the two counties “historic and extreme.”

The two Hawaii counties are among more than a thousand nationwide to receive the disaster declarations this week by the USDA.

Drought conditions are impacting the majority of the US mainland. USDA graphic.

Drought conditions are impacting the majority of the US mainland. USDA graphic.

In the Farm Service Agency’s emergency loan program, producers can borrow up to 100% of the actual production or physical losses minus any disaster related compensation received like insurance, up to a maximum of $500,000, at the current interest rate of 3.75%.

Loans for crop, livestock and non-real estate losses are normally repaid within one to seven years. Loans for physical losses to real estate are normally repaid within 30 years.

Farmers and ranchers in counties designated primary or contiguous disaster areas are encouraged to contact their crop insurance companies and local USDA Farm Service Agency Service Centers to report damages to crops or livestock loss.

Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of the disaster declaration to apply for assistance. In addition, the USDA encourages livestock producers to keep thorough records of losses, including additional expenses for such things as food purchased due to lost supplies.

The agency is allocated $16 million in financial and technical assistance to immediately help crop and livestock producers cope with drought, and transferred an additional $14 million from other programs into the Emergency Conservation Program.

Extreme drought conditions on the leeward side of the Big Island have forced some ranchers to purchase expensive supplemental feed and haul water for their livestock.

This USDA graphic shows the state's drought conditions as of Tuesday, Jan. 14.

This USDA graphic shows the state’s drought conditions as of Tuesday, Jan. 14.

Dry conditions in South Kohala prompted the Hawaii County Department of Water Supply to impose a mandatory restriction notice in November calling for a 25% reduction in water usage.

However, that was downgraded to a 10% voluntary conservation notice on Dec. 30 after last month’s heavy rains boosted levels in the area’s two reservoirs.

Despite the December rainfall, the National Weather Service reported that virtually all areas of the Big Island saw rainfall below normal levels for the second year in a row in 2013.

The only exception was an area located above Waipio Valley where the weather service recorded just above average rainfall for the year.

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