Rio Grande Valley farmers bedeviled by the dual forces of prolonged drought and Mexico's refusal to honor a 1944 treaty will get some relief from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

According to the Texas Department of Agriculture, which will administer the funds, USDA has allocated $10 million for drought-stricken farmers in Cameron, Hidalgo, Kinney, Maverick, Starr, Webb, Val Verde, Willacy and Zapata counties.

Applications will be accepted through close of business Dec. 16.

To qualify, applicants must show that acreage was eligible for water allocations for agricultural use in the Rio Grande Watermaster system through irrigation water rights as an independent or through a water irrigation district during the 2001 crop year.

Also, agricultural producers must have had the right to farm on eligible acres on January 1, 2001.

Growers may pick up applications at offices of water irrigation districts, Texas Cooperative Extension Service, USDA-FSA, Rio Grande Watermaster, and the TDA Website.

Applications should be turned in to the water irrigation or to a USDA-FSA office in counties without a water district office. Applications submitted to TDA or other agencies will not be accepted.

TDA will begin distributing funds after all valid applications are processed.

The application form appears relatively simple, consisting of five columns:

  1. Description of eligible acreage (including water district Id numbers, Watermaster account numbers for independents).

  2. Number of eligible flat rate acres used for agricultural production, according to water district (independents state acres eligible for water allocation).

  3. Certification that applicant had the right to farm stated property on Jan. 1, 2001.

  4. Certification that acreage was eligible for water allocation.

  5. County.

A separate section should be filled in by the water district.

rsmith@primedidabusiness.com