Agriculture & Industries Commissioner Ron Sparks is optimistic about Alabama farmers getting relief due to the disaster declaration issued by USDA Secretary Mike Johanns.

Johanns declared that 41 counties in the state had received sufficient product losses to warrant a natural disaster declaration. Another 14 contiguous counties qualified for low-interest loans under the Consolidated Farm & Rural Development Act.

“This is the first step in the process for farmers to get help,” said Sparks.

“We have to make sure that Congress goes forward with the disaster relief bills they have before them. The House has passed one for 2005 and 2006, and marked up one for 2007.

“I hope Congress will continue to make progress on this because it is so important to our farmers here at home. We can’t let our farmers go out of business. Not only do we need to help them stay in the marketplace, but I think it has been especially clear lately that we cannot afford to rely on other countries to produce our food.”