USDA has designated Coconino, Gila, Maricopa, Pima, Pinal and Yavapai counties in Arizona as primary natural disaster areas due to losses caused by an ongoing drought that occurred Jan. 1 – Dec. 31, 2011.

“Assistance at this point and time is critically important for producers in Arizona, especially in helping them keep their farmland healthy for the remainder of the year,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “President Obama and I realize that during this time of disaster, federal assistance will be needed until conditions improve and farmers strive to recover from their losses.”

Farmers and ranchers in the following counties in Arizona also qualify for natural disaster assistance because their counties are contiguous. Those counties are: Cochise, Graham, La Paz, Mohave, Navajo, Santa Cruz and Yuma.

Farmers and ranchers in Kane and San Juan counties in Utah also qualify for natural disaster assistance because their county is contiguous.

All counties listed above were designated natural disaster areas April 4, 2012, making all qualified farm operators in the designated areas eligible for low interest emergency (EM) loans from USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA), provided eligibility requirements are met. Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of the 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. FSA has a variety of programs, in addition to the EM loan program, to help eligible farmers recover from adversity.

USDA also has made other programs available to assist farmers and ranchers, including the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Program (SURE), which was approved as part of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008; the Emergency Conservation Program; Federal Crop Insurance; and the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program. Interested farmers may contact their local USDA Service Centers for further information on eligibility requirements and application procedures for these and other programs. Additional information is also available online at http://disaster.fsa.usda.gov.

Secretary Vilsack also reminds producers that the department’s authority to operate the five disaster assistance programs authorized by the 2008 Farm Bill expired on Sept. 30, 2011.This includes SURE; the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP); the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees, and Farm-Raised Fish (ELAP); the Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP); and the Tree Assistance Program (TAP). Production losses in the counties listed above are covered because the event triggering the loss occurred prior to the expiration of these programs; however, production losses due to disasters occurring after Sept. 30, 2011, are not eligible for disaster program coverage.