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USDA offers assistance to farmers

February 20, 2002

USDA offers assistance to farmers



By ANDREW SCHOTZ
andrews@herald-mail.com


The U.S. Department of Agriculture has programs that could help Washington County residents and farmers affected by the drought.

Residents with low incomes may apply for a loan through the USDA's Rural Development office. The interest rate is 1 percent.

The maximums are $20,000 for the amount and 20 years for the term.

The loans may be used to replace wells or make home improvements.

Twelve people have received loans in the last 10 years, said Bill Marek, a community development specialist in the USDA's Rural Development Office in Hagerstown.

"No one uses it in Washington County," he said.

To reach the Rural Development Office, call 301-797-0500, extension 4.

The Emergency Conservation Program, offered through the USDA's Farm Service Agency, can help farmers develop a new source of water for their livestock.

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The program will pay up to 50 percent of the permanent cost of buying a storage tank, drilling a well or similar measures.

The program was approved Tuesday. By Friday, three people had applied and two others expressed interest, said Colleen Cashell of the Farm Service Agency.

The Farm Service Agency also offers emergency loans for Washington County family farmers. The program is part of a December 2001 drought disaster declaration for neighboring Pennsylvania counties.

Farmers must have suffered a 30 percent loss in a single enterprise.

The interest rate is 3.75 percent.

"We are a lender of last resort," Cashell said.

The deadlines to apply are April 15 for the Emergency Conservation Program and Aug. 5 for the emergency loans.

To find out more, call the USDA's office in Hagerstown at 301-797-0500, extension 2.

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