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Published on March 04, 2024
USDA Declares Disaster in Nine Oregon Counties, Unlocks Emergency Loan Support for FarmersSource: Google Street View

In a significant move to aid Oregon's battered agriculture sector, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has stepped in to offer a helping hand. Following a request for assistance by Governor Tina Kotek due to severe weather during the 2023 crop year, the USDA has issued a Secretarial natural disaster designation for nine counties across Oregon, as confirmed by a recent announcement from the Governor's office. This designation opens the door for farmers in the affected regions to potentially receive federal support in the form of emergency loans.

It was clear, even before the USDA's intervention, that the state's agricultural communities had to face off against nature's fury with notably significant losses. The Oregon cherry industry, a cornerstone of the state's farming economy, saw a 35% dip in yield—a telling sign of the weather's devastating effect.

As per the Governor's press conference, “Oregon farmers faced serious economic losses during last year’s crop season” and she highlighted the critical nature of federal support "to ensure that farmers are able to receive support from the federal government in recuperating those losses." The Secretarial natural disaster designation was issued on February 23, 2024, as a direct response to these challenges.

Under the terms of the designation, farmers in Hood River County are marked as a primary county due to excessive rainfall starting on July 7, 2023. As the impact sprawled across the state, other areas like Clackamas, Multnomah, and Wasco counties were also tagged as contingent counties. Echoing the same plight, Wasco County, along with Clackamas, Gilliam, Hood River, Jefferson, Marion, Sherman, and Wheeler counties faced a combination of drought, excessive heat, and strong winds from July 5-15, 2023, prompting them to be designated as continent counties eligible for federal assistance. The announcement made sure to quickly add that farmers may be able to apply for loans if they produce crops in any of the recognized areas.

This assistance, courtesy of a Secretarial disaster designation, makes farm operators in these primary counties—and those in counties contiguous to them—eligible for consideration for FSA emergency loans, assuming they fulfill the relevant requirements. The USDA has provided an eight-month window from the date of the disaster declaration for farmers to submit their applications for emergency loans. As the FSA meticulously reviews each application, it takes into account the degree of production losses and the applicant's ability to repay the loan. Affected farmers requiring additional information can reach out to their local FSA offices.

With federal assistance now in play, Oregon farmers hit by last year's rough weather could indeed have a clearer path toward recovery. According to information from the Oregon Government Newsroom, after weathering the storm, the state's agricultural community, instrumental in "feeding families across the state," can now look forward to some much-needed financial relief.