USDA has announced a compensation plan for those affected by Karnal bunt. Growers, handlers, seed companies, owners of grain storage facilities, flour millers, and participants in the National Karnal Bunt Survey who incurred losses and expenses because of Karnal bunt will be covered by the plan.

The plan includes compensation for the 1999-2000 crop season, the 2000-2001 crop season, and future years.

County Farmer Services Administration offices are now receiving applications. The levels of compensation for those affected by Karnal bunt vary.

  • For positive-testing wheat grown in areas already regulated for Karnal bunt before the 1999-2000 crop was planted, the compensation for positive grain or seed is 60 cents per bushel.

  • Positive-testing wheat grown in an area in the first regulated crop season, i.e., an area that became regulated for Karnal bunt after the 1999-2000 crop was planted, will be compensated at a rate not to exceed $1.80 per bushel. This includes all newly regulated areas in Texas.

  • However, those with wheat grown in areas where an extraordinary emergency is declared, an area regulated for Karnal bunt after the crop was planted, or for which an emergency action notification was issued after the crop was planted or at the time it was sold will still be eligible for compensation.

In June this year, after bunted kernels were confirmed in grain, USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service immediately added Archer, Baylor, Throck-morten, and Young counties in Texas to the areas regulated for Karnal bunt.

To date, multiple public meetings have been held in the regulated areas to brief producers, grain handlers, and harvesters on USDA's actions to contain and prevent the spread of Karnal bunt. Because these initiatives have generated interest throughout the United States, USDA has created a task force of agricultural cooperators to coordinate program activities and enhance communications.

Karnal bunt is caused by the smut fungus Tilletia indica. It is spread by spores and through the movement of infected or contaminated seed. While the fungus does not threaten human health, flour made from heavily infected wheat has an unpleasant odor and taste, jeopardizing its marketability. The disease also reduces crop yields.

Karnal bunt was first detected in Arizona in 1996. Later that year, the fungus was also detected in Texas and California.

This final rule was scheduled for publication in the Aug. 6 Federal Register and becomes effective upon publication. APHIS documents published in the Federal Register and related information, including the names of organizations and individuals who have commented on APHIS dockets, are available on the Internet at:

http://www.aphis.usda.gov/ppd/rad/webrepor.html

For industry and the general public, a Karnal bunt Web site is accessible at:

http://www.aphis.usda.gov/

Nine Texas counties eligible for emergency farm loans

USDA has named nine counties in Texas as eligible for emergency (EM) farm loans due to losses caused by rain, hail, and high winds that occurred on May 30, 2001.

Hockley County was named as a primary disaster area on Aug. 23, 2001. Also eligible because they are contiguous, are Bailey, Cochran, Hale, Lamb, Lubbock, Lynn, Terry, and Yoakum counties.

This designation makes all qualified farm operators in primary and contiguous disaster counties eligible for low-interest EM loans from the Farm Service Agency (FSA), 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.

Interested farmers may contact their local FSA offices for further information on eligibility requirements and application procedures.