Aiken County farmers have approximately eight months to apply for an emergency loan program if more than 30 percent of their crops have been damaged due to excessive rain and flooding.
Gov. Nikki Haley requested a disaster declaration on Aug. 19 for the entire state due to crop damage by flooding and rain.
Haley requested 36 counties, including Aiken, be designated as Primary Disaster Counties, and the remaining 10 be labeled Contiguous Disaster Counties. Those include Abbeville, Anderson, Chester, Fairfield, Greenwood, Kershaw, Lancaster, Lexington, McCormick and Oconee.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture approved Haley's request so farmers can become eligible for low-interest emergency loans through the next eight months.
“We determine if it's a quality loss, or a quantity loss like yield reduction due to weather,” said Lynn Huggins, farm loan manager of the USDA Farm Service Agency. “When we confer to dollar figure, at least 30 percent loss over a normal years production is what we look at. If they have a 30 percent loss, they can borrow up to about 90 percent of that loss. Depending on what they use, depends on the term.”
Gibson Solomons, Aiken County executive director of the USDA Farm Service Agency, said because of rain, the majority of Aiken County's crops have been damaged.
“A lot of wheat has been damaged, and it didn't get harvested because it's been so wet, and it's more than 30 percent in pretty much all of the farms,” Solomons said.
Solomon said most of the wheat crop was not harvested because the ground is too wet, and corn was affected.
“Cotton has also been affected,” Solomons said. “We've had kind of a cool summer, and cotton likes heat. It takes a lot of heat to make the crop and drier weather.”
This was the wettest summer across the Midlands and Central Savannah River Area since 2003, according to the National Weather Service. Many areas across the region received between 150 and 250 percent of normal rainfall.
“They have eight months from Aug. 28 to apply,” Solomons said. “Their losses, their security they have, assets and their ability to repay the loan is all taken into account. We've already had some people call and ask questions.”
Interested farmers can call the local Farm Service Agency at 803-649-4221
For more information, visit www.fsa.usda.gov.
Maayan Schechter is the city beat reporter with Aiken Standard.
An Atlanta native, she has a mass communications-journalism degree from the University of North Carolina Asheville.