66 ALABAMA COUNTIES ELIGIBLE FOR DROUGHT ASSISTANCE
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- All but one county in Alabama became eligible for federal drought assistance last week as U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns designated 48 Alabama counties as primary natural disaster areas, and 18 other counties qualified because they adjoin those counties.
Only Lamar County in northwest Alabama was excluded in the action.
Gov. Bob Riley and state Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks, who went to Washington last month to press for such aid, said the high temperatures and lack of rain had taken a toll on Alabama farmers.
The designation makes farmers in the primary and contiguous counties eligible for low-interest emergency loans from the Farm Service Agency, provided they meet eligibility requirements.
Interested farmers may contact USDA Service Centers for more information.
The counties designated as primary disaster areas are: Baldwin, Barbour, Bibb, Bullock, Butler, Chambers, Cherokee, Choctaw, Clarke, Clay, Coffee, Colbert, Conecuh, Coosa, Covington, Crenshaw, Cullman, Dale, Elmore, Escambia, Etowah, Franklin, Geneva, Greene, Hale, Henry, Houston, Jackson, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Lee, Macon, Madison, Marengo, Mobile, Monroe, Montgomery, Morgan, Perry, Pike, Randolph, Russell, St. Clair, Sumter, Tallapoosa, Tuscaloosa, Washington and Wilcox.
The contiguous counties that are covered are: Autauga, Blount, Calhoun, Chilton, Cleburne, Dallas, DeKalb, Fayette, Jefferson, Limestone, Lowndes, Marion, Marshall, Pickens, Shelby, Talladega, Walker and Winston.
Six Alabama counties -- Pike, Bullock, Covington, Elmore, Geneva and Montgomery -- have been approved for emergency grazing of federal Conservation Reserve Program land because of the drought. The federal program normally pays farmers to idle land in order to preserve wildlife habitat or what is considered fragile cropland.
The announcement means that farmers in those six counties who are under contract with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to maintain the land can use it for grazing and allow others to use it for grazing if they choose.