Record rain makes farmers eligible for emergency loans
by Brian Anderson
Sep 20, 2013 | 3558 views |  0 comments | 49 49 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Water pours down steps at the Oxford Baseball for Youth fields at Oxford Lake. Photo by Stephen Gross.
Water pours down steps at the Oxford Baseball for Youth fields at Oxford Lake. Photo by Stephen Gross.
Alabama’s wet summer and record rainfall was enough for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to designate 50 counties across the state, including Calhoun County, as natural disaster areas.

The department announced Thursday that farmers in those counties who experienced losses due to rain and flooding this year can apply for emergency low-interest loans.

“This is what Gov. Robert Bentley and Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan asked for,” said Hassey Brooks, the program director for the Alabama Department of Agriculture. “We’re very happy to have received these designations.”

Farmers in eligible areas, which also include nearby Etowah, Cleburne and Talladega counties, can apply for emergency loans through the Farm Service Agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Brooks said each loan will be assessed case-by-case and take into consideration production loss experienced during 2013.

Brooks said cotton, soybeans, hay and peanuts were among the biggest losses for Alabama farmers this year.

The worst of the rain this year for the state happened June through August when Calhoun County received almost 25 inches of rainfall, according to the National Weather Service in Calera. That’s more than double the amount seen during the same time period in 2012.

Steve Chapman, who organizes the Downtown Farmers Market at Zinn Park, said business wasn’t great this summer for most local farmers, with tomato, eggplant and okra production way down.

“I don’t think hardly anyone in this area had any okra,” said Chapman, who estimated production for most farmers in the area was down as much as 50 percent. “My eggplants did nothing. My tomatoes did nothing. It wasn’t a great season.”

Chapman said it wasn’t just crops that got short-changed this year. One of the biggest production falloffs in 2013 was honey.

“Bees don’t fly when it’s raining,” Chapman said.

Despite the poor summer season, Chapman said he doesn’t expect many farmers to be lining up for federal loans. As the summer season winds down, farmers will wind down crop production too, Chapman said.

“In my experience, it just hasn’t been worth it,” he said.

Brooks said he expects the number of loan applicants to vary by county, but suspects a lot of farmers will share Chapman’s view.

The rain hasn’t been completely bad news for all farmers in Alabama. Brooks said corn yield has been extremely high throughout the state thanks to all the wet weather.

“Right now in Anniston it’s corn season,” Brooks said. “So folks will probably have a lot of corn. We’ve seen very high production of corn so far.”

Rain has tapered off a bit in September, with less than 2 inches recorded in Calhoun County, according to the National Weather Service. But that could change this weekend with a forecast calling for a 100 percent of rain.

Staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.

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