Governor Bob McDonnell has announced that the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture has designated 59 Virginia counties and the city of Suffolk primary natural disaster areas because of reductions in farm production caused by drought and excessive heat that occurred in 2010.

These disaster designations make farmers eligible for low-interest loans and any supplemental relief that might be provided by Congress in the future.

Farmers in the independent city of Suffolk, as well as in the following counties, have received primary natural disaster designation and may also be eligible for federal assistance: Accomack, Albemarle, Amelia, Amherst, Appomattox, Bedford, Brunswick, Buckingham, Campbell, Caroline, Carroll, Charlotte, Clarke, Culpeper, Cumberland, Dinwiddie, Essex, Fauquier, Fluvanna, Franklin, Frederick, Green, Greensville, Goochland, Halifax, Hanover, Isle of Wight, James City, King and Queen, King George, King William, Lancaster, Louisa, Lunenburg, Mecklenburg, Middlesex, Montgomery, Nelson, Northampton, Northumberland, Nottoway, Orange, Page, Patrick, Pittsylvania, Powhatan, Prince Edwar, Pulask, Rappahannock, Richmond, Rockbridge, Shenandoah, 
Southampton, Spotsylvania, Stafford, Surry, Warren, Westmoreland and York

Commenting on the designations, Governor McDonnell noted, “Excessive heat and drought reduced crop yields in many localities causing farmers hardship and impacting their operations. With approval by the USDA, they are now eligible to be considered for assistance by the Federal Government.”

An additional 24 counties and 19 independent cities received designations as contiguous disaster areas because of their location next to a primary disaster area. Those include the counties of Alleghany, Augusta, Bath, Bland, Botetourt, Charles City, Chesterfield, Craig, Floyd, Giles, Gloucester, Grayson, Henrico, Henry, Loudoun, Madison, Mathews, New Kent, Prince George, Prince William, Roanoke, Rockingham, Sussex and Wythe and the independent cities of Bedford, Buena Vista, Charlottesville, Chesapeake, Danville, Emporia, Franklin, Fredericksburg, Galax, Hampton, Lexington, Lynchburg, Newport News, Petersburg, Poquoson, Portsmouth, Radford, Williamsburg and Winchester.

Disaster declarations make farm operators in both primary and contiguous areas eligible to be considered for low-interest emergency loans from the Farm Service Agency (FSA) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, provided they meet certain eligibility requirements. This assistance includes FSA emergency loans and the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Program. Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of a disaster declaration to apply for emergency loan assistance.

FSA will consider each application on its own merits by taking into account the extent of the losses, security available and repayment ability. Local FSA offices can provide affected farmers with additional information.

Requests for primary disaster designations are currently pending for these seven counties: Botetourt, Charles City, Craig, Gloucester, Henrico, Matthews and New Kent. These counties already have received a contiguous designation but are seeking a primary declaration in case Congress appropriates direct aid.