Disaster designations open emergency loans up to area farmers

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Marcia Nelesen
Friday, July 27, 2012

— A federal edict declaring Rock, Walworth and 21 other counties natural disaster areas will make low-interest emergency loans available for farmers with cash-flow problems.

The loans will help farmers purchase feed or whatever else they need to make it through to next year, said Jim Stute, UW Extension crops and soils agent.

“It’s going to help some people, I’m sure,” he said.

To be eligible, farmers must have suffered at least a 30 percent loss in a major crop and be unable to continue with an existing lender, said Judy Schambow, executive director with the Rock County Farm Service Agency.

The emergency loans carry a 2.25 percent interest rate.

“I’m thinking most people are going to have a loss on their corn crops,” Schambow said. “Those loans are out there so people can maintain their cash flow and stay in business.”

Despite 3.1 inches of rain so far in July, Rock County remains in an “extreme drought” condition, according to the National Climatic Data Center.

“The reality is, we need rain, and we need it to continue,” Schambow said. “And the other thing that would be nice to get is out of the hot weather pattern.”

With the disaster declaration, farmers can file paperwork for an OK to graze their animals on areas set aside in the conservation reserve program, Schambow said.

Gov. Scott Walker on Wednesday said Wisconsin would begin accepting applications for its Drought Relief Guarantee Program. The program, which is administered through the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority, would provide a 90 percent guarantee on agricultural loans up to $15,000 for three years.

What the future holds depends on rainfall and the federal government, Schambow said.

No federal disaster legislation is in place, yet, but could be in the future, especially because of the widespread nature of the drought, she said.

Janesville, for example, had a deficit of more than 5 inches of rain in May and June. In July, however, the city so far has received a bit over the average of 3 inches, according to Gazette weather records.

“I’ve had people come through the door, and they really think, if we keep this rain pattern going, we’ll have an average crop,” Schambow said.

The soybeans, for example, look “way, way better” now that the county has received some rain.

It is too early to tell what condition crops will be in this year, Stute said.

“The crops have responded, but for some crops it was too late, in particular, corn,” he said.

Rain came too late for corn already brown and dead, but corn that was green has rehydrated and has resumed growing.

Farmers soon will know whether pollination is successful, he said.

“If we do have successful pollination and timely rain, we could still get a reasonable yield,” Stute said.

Soybeans are all right and are flowering. Canning crops look variable, he said.

“I can really see the difference in the hay fields,” Stute said. “The ones that went dormant and brown are greening up, and the ones that hadn’t gone dormant are putting on new growth. That’s a good thing.”

The county must rely on rain because no moisture is left in the soil.

“An inch a week would do it,” Stute said. “It just depends on what the rest of the season looks like.”

Residents compare this year to 1988, but Schambow said the longtime farmers who come into her office think this year is worse.

Schambow said farmers are stressed just like their crops. It’s also hard on those who raise livestock because they must buy feed. Some might reduce the size of their herds to manage the cost, she said.

But that’s the way farming has always been, she added.

“If you grew up (farming), it’s part of the business,” Schambow said. “You have your ups and downs.”

The 21 other counties declared natural disaster areas are Adams, Columbia, Crawford, Dane, Dodge, Fond du Lac, Grant, Green, Green Lake, Iowa, Jefferson, Kenosha, Lafayette, Marquette, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Richland, Sauk, Washington and Waukesha.

Last updated: 5:03 pm Tuesday, August 27, 2013

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