USDA adds 23 counties in Wis. to primary natural disaster areas - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

USDA adds 23 counties in Wis. to primary natural disaster areas

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MADISON (WKOW) – U.S. Department of Agriculture named 23 counties in Wisconsin as primary natural disaster areas on Wednesday.

Farmers in almost half of Wisconsin's counties are eligible for federal disaster assistance following the USDA's announcement.

It has been the hottest summer ever in Wisconsin to date, with long stretches of warm days without rain and plenty of record-setting temperatures.

"Those three things together may make this one of the most severe droughts Wisconsin has seen," says Mike Powers, division administrator with the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

USDA's designation of disaster areas means those southern Wisconsin counties have suffered a severe drought for eight or more consecutive weeks.

Farmers in those counties and the eight surrounding ones can apply for low-interest loans—farmers like Dan Roth of Middleton.

"Typically this corn would be seven-feet tall, double the height and there'd be ears like this at this time and as you can see there's virtually nothing," Roth says.

We did finally get a little rain but...

"It's too late."

He says it came after his corn was pollinating.

"It will bring the stalks green again but it still won't produce any corn."

He's hoping for a 50 percent yield at this point.

"We had wind from the last storm and the corn that's in question went down and a lot of the corn that's probably still good is leaning so bad it's going to be tough combining, chopping and stuff," Roth says.

The USDA says corn and soybean ratings are at the lowest condition since 1988. Farmers in 31 states are eligible for disaster assistance

"The year 2012 will be replacing the year 1988 in terms of talking about how dry or how low the yields were," Powers says.

Still, farmers say they're thankful for what they have.

"We can't complain. The last three or four years have been phenomenal. If you plan accordingly, it'll average out," Roth says.

Gov. Scott Walker also announced the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA) will offer drought relief assistance.

The federal disaster areas include the following counties: Adams, Columbia, Crawford, Dane, Dodge, Fond du Lac, Grant, Green, Green Lake, Iowa, Jefferson, Kenosha, Lafayette, Marquette, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Richland, Rock, Sauk, Walworth, Washington, and Waukesha counties.

Assistance is also available for the following contiguous disaster counties: Calumet, Juneau, Portage, Sheboygan, Vernon, Waushara, Winnebago and Wood counties.

Below is a catalog of drought services provided by DATCP:

  • USDA/FSA
    • Release of Conservations Reserve Program Lands (CRP) for haying and grazing.
    • Emergency Loan Program
    • Wetlands Reserve Program
    • Federal Crop Insurance Program
    • Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
  • WHEDA
    • Drought Relief Guarantee Program
    • Credit Relief Outreach Program
  • Department of Natural Resources
    • Waterway and Wetland Permits
    • Haying and Grazing on DNR land through negotiations with property managers
    • Emergency High Capacity Well Permits
  • Department of Transportation
    • Lifting of weight restrictions for agriculture
  • DATCP
    • Resource in working with farmers' daily needs related to drought issues
  • UW Extension
    • Information on drought-related topics
    • Farmer to Farmer network for hay, forages and corn
    • Farmer to Farmer network for pasture rental
  • Wisconsin Emergency Management
    • Provides links to information about agricultural topics for consumers

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WASHINGTON (WKOW) -- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack designated an additional 76 counties in six states, including Wisconsin, as primary natural disaster areas because of the damage and losses caused by the drought and excessive heat.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) designated additional counties in the states of Indiana, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Nebraska and Wisconsin.

The 23 counties added in Wisconsin include: Adams, Columbia, Crawford, Dane, Dodge, Fond du Lac, Grant, Green, Green Lake, Iowa, Jefferson, Kenosha, Lafayette, Marquette, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Richland, Rock, Sauk, Walworth, Washington, and Waukesha counties.

Governor Scott Walker requested the designation of the 23 counties last week.
 
"Under this designation, all qualified farm operators in the affected counties are eligible for low-interest emergency loans," said Governor Walker. "We are doing everything we can to assist farmers who are losing crops due to the extended period where we saw a lack of rain combined with extreme heat. This is one more option for farmers trying to recover from the drought."

The USDA has now designated a total of 1,369 counties across 31 states as disaster areas, with 1,234 due to drought. All qualified farm operators in the areas are now eligible for low-interest emergency loans.

The U.S. Drought Monitor currently reports that two-thirds of the continental U.S. is in moderate to exceptional drought.

"President Obama requested that USDA take the steps within our existing programs to support struggling farmers and ranchers and we announced these new measures earlier this week," said Vilsack. "The President and I are committed to ensuring that agriculture remains a bright spot in our nation's economy by sustaining the successes of America's agricultural economy through these difficult times."  

Governor Walker recently toured the drought-stricken farms in Wisconsin to get a first-hand look at the crop loss and get input from farmers on the best route to recovery. Following the tour, Governor Walker announced the state is opening up some state-owned lands for hay and grazing. 
 
Earlier this month, Governor Walker declared a state of emergency in all Wisconsin counties which expedites permits for farmers to temporarily use stream or lake water for irrigation.

"As USDA officials visit drought-stricken areas to stand with our producers and rural communities, the urgency for Congress to pass a food, farm and jobs bill is greater than ever," said Vilsack. "The hardworking Americans who produce our food and fiber, feed for our livestock, and contribute to a home-grown energy policy—they need action now. That is why USDA is taking every possible step to help farmers through this difficult time."

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