In a continued effort to expedite emergency disaster aid to areas hard hit by adverse weather conditions, Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman has announced counties in Georgia, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Virginia as disaster areas, making farmers and ranchers immediately eligible for USDA emergency (EM) farm loans due to crop losses.

"The Bush Administration continues to provide assistance to farmers and ranchers in an expedited manner," said Veneman. "This assistance will provide much needed relief to farmers who have suffered from losses due to natural disasters."

Bulloch, Emanuel, Laurens, Long, Pierce, Treutlen, Wayne and Wheeler Counties in Georgia were named as primary disaster areas on Aug. 7, 2002. Also eligible for assistance are the contiguous Georgia counties of Appling, Bacon, Bleckley, Brantley, Bryan, Burke, Candler, Dodge, Effingham, Evans, Glynn, Jeff Davis, Jefferson, Jenkins, Johnson, Liberty, McIntosh, Montgomery, Screven, Tattnall, Telfair, Toombs, Twiggs, Ware and Wilkinson.

On Aug. 8, 2002, the Virginia counties of Bedford, Orange and Rockbridge were named primary disaster areas. The following contiguous counties are also eligible for assistance: Albemarle, Alleghany, Amherst, Augusta, Bath, Bedford City, Botetourt, Buena Vista City, Campbell, Culpeper, Franklin, Greene, Lexington City, Louisa, Lynchburg City, Madison, Nelson, Pittsylvania, Roanoke and Spotsylvania.

Farmers in eligible counties have 8 months from the date of this 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.

USDA has a variety of programs available in addition to the EM program to help eligible farmers recover from adversity. Other USDA programs include the Emergency Conservation Program to help producers rehabilitate farmlands damaged by natural disasters; the Federal Crop Insurance program, which provides indemnities for production and revenue losses and the Non-insured Crop Disaster Assistance Program, which provides financial assistance to eligible producers affected by natural disasters. In addition, USDA has made available in areas suffering from weather-related natural disasters emergency haying and grazing of Conservation Reserve Program acreage.

Interested farmers may contact their local FSA offices for more information on eligibility requirements and application procedures. Additional information is also available online at: http://www.fsa.usda.gov/pas/disaster/assistance1.htm,.