Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns has designated one county in California as a primary agricultural disaster area, making all qualified farm operators eligible for low-interest emergency (EM) loans from USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA).

"I'm pleased USDA is able to offer this assistance to California farmers and ranchers who are struggling due to extreme weather conditions," said Johanns.

Johanns made the announcement while attending the USDA Farm Bill Forum in Fresno, Calif., with Secretary A.G. Kawamura of the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

In California, Tehama County was designated as a primary disaster area due to losses caused by hot, dry, windy weather; a severe hail storm; rain and unusually cool temperatures that occurred during the period of March 1, 2005, through June 8, 2005.

Also eligible because they are contiguous are Butte, Glenn, Mendocino, Plumas, Shasta and Trinity counties.

The primary county was designated on Aug. 12, making qualified producers eligible for EM loans provided eligibility requirements are met. Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of the declaration to apply for the 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 available, in addition to the emergency loan program, to help eligible farmers recover from adversity.

USDA has also made other programs available to assist farmers and ranchers, including 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.