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Southern Colorado farmers and ranchers eligible for drought assistance

Author: Liz Forster, The Gazette - May 21, 2018 - Updated: May 21, 2018

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Mercedes Whitman pulls weeds from the plot on her farm, Prospect Farm in 2016. (The Gazette file photo)

Extensive drought in southern Colorado has prompted the U.S. Department of Agriculture to offer natural disaster assistance to affected farmers and ranchers in El Paso, Teller and seven other counties.

Two of those nine counties – Chaffee and Fremont – were designated as primary natural disaster areas.

As of May 15, 79.51 percent of the state was in drought, the U.S. Drought Monitor reported. Western El Paso County and Teller County are considered in moderate drought, while the eastern half of El Paso County is in severe drought. The other counties qualifying for disaster relief funding are in moderate, severe or extreme drought.

Though a larger percentage of the state is not considered to be in a drought compared to the start of the year (20.89 percent versus 7.57 percent), the drought is more severe across the board, with 30.89 percent of the state in extreme and exceptional drought versus 0 percent in January.

An estimated 1,780,956 people are living in the drought areas.

Those who have suffered at least a 30 percent loss in crop production or physical loss to livestock, real estate or personal possessions will be able to apply for emergency loans. These loans can be used to restore or replace essential property; pay all or part of production costs associated with the disaster year; pay essential family living expenses; reorganizing farming operations; and refinance debts.

Other assistance programs are available to farmers, though they do not depend on a disaster declaration, according to the USDA.

For a county to qualify for disaster declaration, the county must have been in severe drought for eight consecutive weeks or hit extreme or exceptional drought.

For the 2018 crop year, 24 counties have received primary disaster declarations for drought. An additional 18 counties are also eligible for emergency loans.

For more information on available assistance, go to https://www.fsa.usda.gov/programs-and-services/disaster-assistance-program/index.

Liz Forster, The Gazette

Liz Forster, The Gazette