Congressman Henry Cuellar (D-TX) and USDA Texas Farm Service Agency State Director Juan M. Garcia announced in Mission, Texas, the timetable for Texas disaster and drought assistance applications to be submitted and processed by the Farm Service Agency. FSA made its timeline public today in advance of processing drought relief applications to distribute disaster-related funds included in the 2008 Farm Bill beginning September 9, 2009.

“Today’s news is welcomed relief for our region’s farms that have endured this record drought, and so I commend FSA for its initiative to start processing these applications,” said Congressman Cuellar. “Under the new guidance of State Director Juan Garcia, I have faith in FSA’s promise to serve and assist our region’s farms.”

This July, Congressman Cuellar wrote a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, asking the USDA to start processing Texas disaster relief applications. Recognizing the needs of Texas farmers and in light of worsening drought conditions, FSA will begin manually processing relief applications, foregoing a wait on application software to electronically process aid.

"I make today's announcement with mixed emotion - on one hand, I wish these disaster programs weren't necessary," said Garcia. "But the reality is, Mother Nature has dealt South Texas a heavy blow, and I'm glad FSA is poised to deliver disaster assistance programs that will alleviate some of the adverse financial impact. I’ve come to FSA with a commitment to do what’s best for Texas and we’re here today to help."

Today, Congressman Cuellar and State Director Garcia met with officials from Starr, Zapata, Jim Hogg, Hidalgo, and Webb Counties to discuss how the region’s farms can apply for disaster relief funding and benefit from other farm operating loan programs. Three of these counties -- Starr, Zapata, and Jim Hogg -- are currently awaiting formal disaster declarations, but can begin the application process for relief assistance in less than two weeks.

“Our farmers and our land owners across South Texas will welcome this funding during these extreme drought conditions, especially in the midst of the economic challenges facing them today,” said Congressman Cuellar. “FSA is accelerating this process and educating our officials on how to apply and receive this well-deserved assistance.”

The first deadline to submit manual applications is September 9, 2009, for the Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) and for the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP), with immediate manual payment processing beginning the same day. LFP provides financial assistance to producers who suffered grazing losses due to drought or fire on or after January 1, 2008, and before October 1, 2011, and ELAP provides assistance for the accrued losses associated with disease, extreme heat, extreme cold and other adverse weather conditions.

The second deadline to submit manual relief applications is November 2, 2009, for the Tree Assistance Program (TAP) which provides cash payments to eligible orchardists and nursery tree growers for qualifying tree losses due to natural disaster, and for the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Program (SURE) which provides cash payments to eligible producers who have incurred crop production losses or crop quality losses.

This past July, FSA started manually processing applications for the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) which provides compensation to eligible livestock producers who incurred livestock death losses due to a natural disaster.

When Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 earlier this year, FSA used the stimulus funding to clear out a backlog of 163 direct operating loans in Texas, totaling $12.4 million. In Congressman Cuellar’s district, stimulus dollars provided operating loan funding worth $314,000 to the region’s farms.

FSA has $5.2 million worth of direct operating loan funds available to Texas farms, with more funds being made available for FY 2010 this October. So far this year, FSA has provided $200 million worth of loans and funding to farms nationwide.

For more information on FSA’s Texas loan and assistance programs please visit: http://www.fsa.usda.gov/FSA/stateoffapp?mystate=tx&area=home&subject=landing&topic=landing.