Aiken County is eligible for assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture as part of a disaster designation declared for 24 counties in South Carolina, according to Gibson Solomons, county executive director for the USDA Farm Service Agency.

The disaster designation is a result of losses caused by drought that occurred from Dec. 4, 2012, to Jan. 28, 2013, according to a statement.

The decision makes all qualified farm operators in the designated areas eligible for low-interest emergency loans from the Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency.

The disaster areas were designated on Jan. 30.

All qualified farm operators in the designated counties are eligible for emergency loans as long as eligibility requirements are met, according to the statement.

Farmers in eligible counties will have eight months from the date of the declaration to apply for loans to help cover part of their actual losses. The Farm Service Agency will consider each loan application on its own merits, taking into account the extent of losses, security available and repayment ability.

The Department of Agriculture has made other programs available to assist farmers and ranchers, including the Emergency Conservation Program, Federal Crop Insurance and the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program.

Interested farmers may contact their local Department of Agriculture Service Centers for more information on eligibility requirements and application procedures for these and other programs.

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