Posts Tagged ‘USDA’

Texas Experiences the Worst Drought in Its History

Thursday, March 26th, 2009
Post-Katrina, Less Bureaucratic Pencil-Pushing

Post-Katrina, Less Bureaucratic Pencil-Pushing

According to a statement issued by the Office of the Governor of Texas, Governor Rick Perry “requested that the U.S. Department of Agriculture provide disaster relief assistance for Texas farms and ranches that have suffered economic and physical losses as a result of severe drought conditions. If Perry’s statewide request is approved, qualified farm operators in all Texas counties will be eligible for low-interest emergency loans from the USDA. The agency also offers additional programs, such as technical assistance, to eligible farmers.” This is most severe drought on record, affecting Texas Hill Country in the South-Central part of the State from San Antonio and Austin; 60% of the beef cows in Texas are in the counties with conditions defined as “severe to exceptional drought”. This only adds to the pain of businesses that have already suffered losses from the economic recession. Texas is the country’s largest cattle-producing state and has already lost close to $1 billion because of the continuing drought.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, extreme drought conditions also exist across other areas of Texas and much of the southwestern United States, threatening water supplies and farmers in rapidly-growing urban areas. In California, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a statewide drought emergency, urging local communities to impose conservation measures to reduce water consumption by 20 percent.

For small-scale farmers, the government assistance programs can be confusing. The Small Business Administration (“SBA”) does not underwrite agricultural loans. For the purposes of SBA’s 7(a) program, a small farm may be considered a small business, but for the purpose of the Economic Injury Disaster Loan, it is not. After Hurricane Katrina, the U.S. Department of Agriculture had to re-write its rules so that it could respond to the needs of small-scale farmers, particularly in the aftermath of a major disaster. It would certainly make government programs more efficient and transparent if the agencies could develop uniform applications.