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Clark questions disaster designation, says crops here are in bad shape

In response to a letter sent by Gov. Nathan Deal, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack determined that, due to the ongoing drought, 22 Georgia counties suffered production losses great enough to warrant a secretarial natural disaster designation.
“I am grateful for Secretary Vilsack’s quick response to my request,” said Deal, “with this designation farmers and their businesses will qualify for much-needed federal relief. It is my hope that this aid will relieve some of the burden this drought has caused.”
The counties, listed below, will become eligible to apply for emergency loans and other benefits provided by the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008:
Appling, Atkinson, Bacon, Ben Hill, Brantley, Brooks, Bryan, Chatham, Coffee, Colquitt, Cook, Dodge, Effingham, Irwin, Jeff Davis, Lanier, Lowndes, Pierce, Telfair, Thomas, Wayne and Wheeler.
Vilsack also wrote that, in accordance with the Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act, he is naming the following areas as contiguous disaster counties:
Berrien, Bleckley, Bulloch, Camden, Charlton, Clinch, Echols, Evans, Glynn, Grady, Laurens, Liberty, Long, McIntosh, Mitchell, Montgomery, Pulaski, Screven, Tattnall, Tift, Toombs, Treutlen, Turner, Ware, Wilcox and Worth.
Like those in primary disaster counties, farmers in contiguous disaster counties may be considered for assistance under the Farm Service Agency (FSA). This includes FSA emergency loans and the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments program. Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the secretarial disaster declaration to apply for emergency loan assistance.
Farmers may contact their local FSA office for more information.
Grady County’s Extension Service Agent Don Clark says he is baffled as to why Grady County was categorized a contiguous disaster county and did not make the list of primary disaster counties. Counties that share borders with those designated primary disaster counties due to the drought are termed “contiguous,” according to Clark.
“I’ve seen crops in Thomas and Colquitt, as well as Grady, and I don’t think anyone can prove to me that the drought is not affecting Grady County just as much as Thomas and Colquitt” (which are declared primary disaster counties).
“Grady County should have been designated a disaster county as well as Thomas and Colquitt. Clark is confident, however, in the coming weeks drought-stricken Grady County’s status will change and it will be recognized as a “disaster county.”
Clark noted there is “some difference” in eligibility for assistance for counties classified as primary disaster counties and those declared contiguous disaster counties.
—Reporting by Staff Writer Darrell Mudra and press release from Gov. Deal’s office.

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