Gov. Walker: Northern counties declared Ag Disaster Areas, farmers eligible for loans, other aid

Contact: Cullen Werwie, 608-267-7303

MADISON—Farmers in 16 northern Wisconsin counties will be eligible for financial assistance to help them recover from harsh weather conditions last winter and spring, Gov. Scott Walker announced today.

At Gov. Walker’s request, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has declared agricultural disasters in Ashland, Bayfield, Douglas, Florence, Forest, Iron, Oneida and Vilas counties. Counties bordering the disaster areas are also included: Burnett, Langlade, Lincoln, Marinette, Oconto, Price, Sawyer and Washburn counties.

“I’m glad the federal government stepped in and acknowledged the natural disaster that occurred in northern Wisconsin,” said Governor Walker. “This action will help ensure we have stability and certainty in the agricultural sector of our economy, which is vital for future growth.”

The declaration stems from several periods of bad weather. In December and January, a freeze-thaw cycle caused frost heave that damaged root systems and left winter crops exposed to extreme cold with no protective snow cover. A cold, wet spring and a 10-inch snowfall in April worsened conditions.

The University of Wisconsin-Extension for Ashland and Bayfield counties reported that farmers lost more than 75 percent of their alfalfa crops on average, and many reseeded with grass or corn. All eight counties reported that, overall, they lost 50-80 percent of their alfalfa crops. Oneida, Florence, Forest and Vilas counties reported losing 50-80 percent of the clover and winter wheat crops as well.

Farmers in these areas may be eligible to receive low-interest emergency loans and SURE program assistance from the U.S. Farm Service Agency. They must apply for loans in the next eight months and for SURE payments in 2012. Assistance depends on production losses, available security, repayment ability, and crop insurance status. Farmers should contact their local FSA office for further information.