California counties eligible for recently-announced 2013 drought disaster assistance from the Farm Service Agency are San Bernardino, Inyo, Mono, Placer, Nevada, Sierra, Lassen and Modoc.  All qualified farm operators in these counties are eligible to apply for low-interest FSA emergency loans. Although no California counties were designated as a primary drought disaster county by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), these eight California counties are eligible for benefits since they are contiguous to Nevada counties designated as primary in the disaster declaration.

On Jan. 9, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack designated 597 counties in 14 states as primary natural disaster areas due to drought and heat.  These are the first disaster designations made by the USDA in 2013.

“California farmers and ranchers have felt impacts from drought this season, although less severely than many areas in the Midwest and South,” said FSA State Executive Director Val Dolcini. “Producers in these eligible counties can contact their nearest FSA office for details and to determine if they qualify.”  The interest rate on emergency loans currently stands at 2.25 percent, providing a competitive, much-needed resource for producers hoping to recover from production and physical losses associated with natural disasters.

USDA's low-interest emergency loans have helped producers recover from losses due to drought, flooding and other natural disasters for decades. A strong farm safety net is important to sustain the success of American agriculture. Part of this net is USDA's crop insurance program, currently insuring 264 million acres with 1.14 million policies and $110 billion worth of liability on about 500,000 farms.

In response to tighter financial markets, USDA has expanded the availability of farm credit, helping struggling farmers refinance loans. Since 2009, USDA has provided more than 128,000 loans to family farmers totaling more than $18 billion. Over 50 percent of the loans went to beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.