Crop Disaster Program offered

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 31, 2005

Marengo County farmers in need of a helping hand may now be able to find one at the Linden USDA Service Center, thanks to the re-opening of the USDA’s Crop Disaster Program.

The Crop Disaster Program (CDP) works to offset farm production losses caused by inclement weather, including Hurricane Ivan, by authorizing payouts through the USDA’s Farm Service Agency to farmers based on the value of the crops lost. The CDP will allow farmers to receive payouts for either the 2003 or 2004 crop year, whichever year is eligible for greater reimbursement.

“We are pleased to be able to provide these benefits to producers as quickly as possible,” U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said. “Drought, floods and hurricanes are unpredictable weather events that put farmers and ranchers at risk in producing a dependable and affordable national food supply.”

Sign-up for the CDP began March 14, and although Ginger DuBois with the Linden USDA Service Center says that participation has been light so far, Ivan and other weather problems mean that it should pick up in the coming months.

“Most people will be concerned with losses from Ivan,” she said. “One key producer we know of lost all his blooms in the storm.”

One benefit to farmers is that the CDP allows for payouts based on overall production losses or on the loss of crop quality. Either a 35 percent production loss or greater, and/or a 20 percent quality loss or greater, would qualify the farmer for CDP assistance.

“The quality of cotton is a big issue after Ivan,” said DuBois. “It’s been really hard on cotton farmers.”

DuBois said she wasn’t worried about the program’s slow attendance so far.

“It’s typical,” she said. “It starts out slow, then someone comes in, and then it seems like everybody comes in.”

According to DuBois, another benefit of the CDP is that while farmers who participate can only receive payments for a single year of crop damages, either 2003 or 2004, the CDP itself will determine for the farmers which of the two applications would result in greater payments.

“They can file for either year,” Dubois said. “We’ll take their application and load it into our computer, and it will say which year would be better for them to claim damages for.”

DuBois added that it was likely that some farmers sustained more damage in 2003 than 2004, despite the destructive wake of Ivan.

“Up to Hurricane Ivan, 2004 was a pretty good crop year,” she said, “so it’s possible some people may not qualify during that year.”

Hay, cotton, and even soybeans were all mentioned by DuBois as particular crops that have suffered due to weather in the last two years. Whatever the need for assistance, Marengo County farmers are encouraged to make the trip to Linden to apply when they can.

“They’ll need to bring in production figures and any receipts they have for fertilizer,” DuBois said. “There’s no deadline yet. As with all federal programs, there’s no deadline until they publish one. Once it’s published, that’s it. It could run six months, it could run a year.”