WASHINGTON – Rep. Charlie Stenholm D-Texas, announced that USDA has designated several West Texas counties as primary agricultural disaster areas due to extensive drought conditions in 2003.

Stenholm reported the USDA has declared Kent and Palo Pinto counties in the 17th Congressional District as primary disaster areas. Other counties in Texas receiving a primary disaster designation include Dickens, Martin, Mason and San Saba counties.

Contiguous counties - those counties that border primary disaster areas - may also be eligible for assistance from the USDA.

"As a farmer in West Texas, I know how hard it can be for us to overcome these dry conditions,” Stenholm said. “The disaster assistance given to producers in these counties is going to help quite a few folks who lost their crops because it didn’t rain enough at the right times last year.

“This will help those of us in dry areas pull through another year.”

The designation makes all qualified farm operators in primary and contiguous counties eligible for low-interest emergency 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 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 adverse weather events.

Contiguous counties include:

Andrews, Borden, Brown, Burnet, Cottle, Crosby, Dawson, Eastland, Erath, Fisher, Floyd, Gaines, Garza, Gillespie, Glasscock, Hood, Howard, Jack, Kimble, King, Lampasas, Llano, McCulloch, Menard, Midland, Mills, Motley, Parker, Scurry, Stephens, Stonewall and Young.

Producers in primary and contiguous counties should contact their local FSA office to determine if they are eligible for disaster assistance programs.

e-mail: rsmith@primediabusiness.com