(Washington, D.C.) - Montana's U.S. Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester announced six new disaster declarations for Montana counties today, making ranchers and farmers in those counties eligible for low-interest emergency loans to help them recover from severe drought and fire. Baucus and Tester also announced that emergency grazing assistance has been extended two additional months to last through November 30, 2012.
Beaverhead, Custer, Rosebud, Big Horn, Madison, Yellowstone counties were declared primary disaster counties by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) today.
In addition, the following 17 counties are also eligible for the same assistance because they are contiguous to disaster-declared counties: Carbon, Golden Valley, Carter, Granite, Deer Lodge, Jefferson, Fallon, Musselshell, Gallatin, Petroleum, Garfield, Powder River.
The emergency haying and grazing program allows ranchers to access Conservation Reserve Program lands to alleviate feed shortages that arise due to disaster designations. Thus far, 56 Montana counties have been approved for emergency haying and grazing.
"One in five Montana jobs depends on the work these ranchers and farmers to every day to keep food on our tables. These are our neighbors, and in Montana, when our neighbors are in trouble, we lend a helping hand. I'm glad to see USDA answering our call to pitch in, and I will keep fighting to make sure Montana ranchers and farmers have access to all the federal resources they need to keep supporting the jobs our state relies on," Baucus said.
"Montana's farmers and ranchers are dealing with historic drought and wildfires, and while some in Congress delay the Farm Bill, we need to do everything we can to support Montana agriculture," Tester said. "This assistance will help producers get back on their feet and return to doing what they do best: feeding our state and our nation."
Baucus and Tester have been pushing USDA since July to speed up all available federal resources for Montana agriculture producers struggling with wildfire and drought disaster conditions. Earlier this month, Baucus and Tester announced seven additional counties that now have access to emergency assistance to help rebuild fences and rehabilitate ranchland torched by wildfires, and emergency water for irrigation and livestock in five Montana counties hit hardest by drought.
Baucus and Tester are encouraging Montana ranchers and farmers to contact their local Farm Service Agency offices to apply for a loans and emergency haying and grazing rights, and to find out what other assistance they may qualify for.
Producers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of the declaration to apply for loans to help cover part of their actual losses. Recently, USDA effectively reduced the interest rate for EM loans from 3.75 percent to 2.25 percent