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Escambia County named disaster area following drought

Rain fell most of the week over Escambia County — with more expected this weekend — but that was not enough to ease a drought, according to a new declaration made Friday.

Escambia is among 33 counties in Alabama named a “primary natural disaster area” thanks to prolonged dry weather.

Gov. Robert Bentley said that means farmers will be eligible for low-interest federal loans as a result of the drought emergency declaration by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack.

“While much of the state has received rain this week, it is not enough to eliminate the severe and extreme drought conditions that many places are experiencing,” Bentley said.  “Farmers across Alabama are suffering through what has been an extended drought from last year. We appreciate Secretary Vilsack’s response to this critical situation that affects so many Alabama families.”

Counties suffering from severe or extreme drought include: Autauga, Baldwin, Barbour, Bibb, Bullock, Butler, Chambers, Chilton, Clay, Cleburne, Coffee, Conecuh, Coosa, Covington, Crenshaw, Dale, Dallas, Elmore, Escambia, Geneva, Henry, Houston, Lee, Lowndes, Macon, Montgomery, Perry, Pike, Randolph, Russell, Talladega, Tallapoosa and Wilcox.

“There are many growers of commodity crops such as corn, soybeans, cotton and peanuts, who have suffered damage from the drought,” said Commissioner John McMillan of the Alabama Department of Agriculture & Industries. “Farmers should contact their local office of the Farm Service Agency to determine their eligibility and begin the process for loan application.”

More counties could be named in the declaration in coming weeks, depending on drought reports.

Counties declared as primary natural disaster areas have faced severe drought conditions for at least eight consecutive weeks or extreme drought conditions at any time during the growing season.

Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of a secretarial disaster declaration to apply for emergency loan assistance.

FSA will consider each emergency loan application based on objective standards with regard to production losses, security available and repayment ability.