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More drought relief on way to Franklin Co.

April 19, 2000|By DON AINES

HARRISBURG, Pa. - More than 300 Franklin County farmers already approved for about $2 million in federal crop disaster assistance can expect about $1.5 million more in state cash grants, according to a Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture official.

"We've made some advance payments of about 35 percent," Deputy Secretary for Marketing, Promotion and Program Services Russell Redding said Tuesday.

He said payments to county farmers will be up to 75 percent of the cash grants already approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Crop Disaster Assistance Program.

In the wake of the 1999 drought, the Pennsylvania General Assembly approved a $65.6 million assistance package for the state's farmers. Redding said $60 million was for cash payments with the balance dedicated to the Crop Insurance Assistance Program.

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Tom Kerr, the executive director of the USDA's Farm Services Agency in Franklin County, said last week that 812 crop disaster assistance applications had been accepted from 335 producers. Because the program covered corn, soybeans, hay and other crops, he said farmers could file more than one application depending on what they grew last year.

To be eligible for the federal program, and thus the state program, a farmer had to prove losses of 30 percent or more for any crop. The amount of compensation for the $1.2 billion federal program was set at about 70 percent of the estimated loss, Kerr said.

"We can pay up to 75 percent of the $2 million" county farmers will receive from the federal Crop Disaster Program, Redding said. The $1.5 million split up among the 335 farmers would make the average state payment about $4,500.

Those farmers receiving a crop loss payment from the state also will be eligible for the Crop Insurance Assistance Program, Redding said.

"Any producer who received a crop loss payment will receive a 10 percent premium assistance on their crop insurance premiums" along with the state Department of Agriculture paying processing fees, he said.

"We wanted to provide an additional incentive for producers to manage some of their risk through insurance," Redding said.

Kerr estimated last week that the 1999 corn crop was about half of that in a normal year because of the drought. Soybeans were down about 30 percent and hay was off as much as 60 percent.

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