WASHINGTON - Congressman Randy Neugebauer announced Wednesday that USDA has designated several West Texas counties as primary agricultural disaster areas due to last year's drought.

Neugebauer said that Bailey, Hale, Cochran, Lamb, Lynn, Terry, Yoakum, and Lubbock Counties are being given the disaster declaration, which makes farmers in those areas eligible for emergency loans. Late last year, the USDA declared a number of Texas counties as disaster areas due to hail damage.

"I've heard from several farmers who have been waiting for this declaration in order to obtain a loan to finance this year's crop," said Neugebauer. "I encourage farmers who need these emergency loans to apply at their county FSA office as soon as possible."

This drought severely reduced last year's yields for most West Texas producers. The designation makes all qualified farm operators in these counties eligible for low-interest emergency (EM) loans from the Farm Service Agency, provided eligibility requirements are met.

Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of the declaration to apply for the loans to help cover part of their actual losses. FSA will consider each loan application on its own merits, taking into account the extent of losses, security available and repayment ability. FSA has a variety of programs available, in addition to the emergency loan program, to help eligible farmers recover from adversity.

USDA has also made other programs available to assist farmers and ranchers, including the Emergency Conservation Program, Federal Crop Insurance and the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program.

Interested farmers should contact their local FSA Service Centers for further information on eligibility requirements and application procedures for these and other programs. Additional information is also available online at: http://disaster.fsa.usda.gov.

e-mail: rsmith@primediabusiness.com