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Drought relief on way to Pa. farmers

April 11, 2000|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Several hundred Franklin County farmers hurt by last year's drought will get a share of approximately $2 million in payments from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Crop Disaster Program.

Earlier this year the USDA sent advance payments on 812 applications from 335 producers for approximately $950,000, according to Franklin County Farm Service Agency Executive Director Tom Kerr. That was 35 percent of what the applicants could have been eligible to receive under the $1.2 billion program.

Kerr said what farmers will receive is based on how many applied nationwide. He said Monday that the final figure was 69.6 percent of their entitlement, "which is just about double what they originally got from the advance payments."

Kerr said the balance owed to county farmers should be going out before the end of the month.

To be eligible farmers had to show crop losses of 35 percent or more based on yields from previous years, according to program guidelines.

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"There were quite a few guys that were on the borderline and didn't qualify," said Titus Martin, a Guilford Township farmer and president of the Franklin County Farm Bureau. He said that probably kept many farmers from applying for cash payments.

Farmers with insured crops were compensated at 65 percent of the crop insurance program's established market price. The rate was 60 percent for uninsured crops, he said.

Kerr said corn production was half of normal in 1999, soybeans were off about 30 percent and hay production was down 60 percent. Many farmers applied for compensation on several crops they grew last year, he said.

County farmers also benefited from the Loan Deficiency Payment Program, Kerr said. Those went to farmers whose crop loan payments were based on a commodity loan rate.

For example, the loan rate on corn was $2.09 per bushel last year, according to Kerr. If corn sold at $1.99, the farmer would receive 10 cents a bushel to make up the shortfall, he said.

Payments from the program to county farmers were $195,000 on corn, $193,000 for soybeans, $116,000 on wheat and $12,000 for barley, Kerr said.

Almost 300 of the county's 500 dairy farmers will receive a total of $613,000 from the Dairy Market Loss Assistance Program, he said. The federal program provides $200 million in direct cash payments to producers faced with reduced milk prices last year.

Kerr said the program paid $13.2 cents per hundredweight on a maximum of 2.6 million pounds of marketed milk, down from the previous year when it paid 22 cents.

Martin said milk prices were about $12 per hundredweight or lower at the beginning of 1999, but improved before sliding again in the fall.

More than 200 farmers participated in the Livestock Assistance Program. "These are people who suffered at least a 40 percent loss in their pastures between June 10 and Sept. 15" when the drought was at its worst, Kerr said.

The program paid out $50,000 with an average payment of $240, he said.

"It was nice spending cash, but it certainly didn't go toward a farm payment," Martin said of the $1,800 he received from various federal crop assistance programs.

Kerr said the Oilseed Payment Program for soybeans and other oilseeds was extended two weeks from its March 31 deadline. As of March 31, 174 producers applied and he expected payments to total $25,000 to $30,000.

"That payment is based on 14 cents a bushel on an average yield of 41 bushels an acre," Kerr said. Payments were based on the average yield by the producer in 1997 or 1998 or the county average yield for the past five years.

Despite more than $3 million in Crop Disaster and other federal payment programs from those programs, Martin said they don't make up for a bad year.

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture estimated income from the county's 1,400 farms at $210 million in 1998. The department has not released figures for last year.

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