Virginia Governor Timothy M. Kaine has announced the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture has designated Culpeper, Lee, Russell, Scott, Smyth, Washington and Wise counties primary natural disaster areas due to reductions in farm production caused by drought and high temperatures that occurred from Jan. 1, 2007, and continuing.

This disaster designation makes farmers eligible for low-interest loans and any supplemental relief that may be provided by Congress.

Farmers in several adjacent localities also have received contiguous disaster status and also may be eligible for federal assistance. These are the counties of Bland, Buchanan, Dickenson, Fauquier, Grayson, Madison, Orange, Rappahannock, Spotsylvania, Stafford, Tazewell, and Wythe, in addition to the independent cities of Bristol and Norton.

Requests for federal drought disaster designations are currently pending for nine localities, the counties of Bedford, Bland, Brunswick, Caroline, Essex, King George, Lancaster, Loudoun and Orange.

“This USDA disaster designation makes low-interest loans available to farmers in these Virginia localities,” said Governor Kaine. “We will continue to work with other areas affected by drought, and we anticipate that the federal government will be responding to these additional requests in the weeks ahead.”

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.

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.