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New Mexico Farmers Hit by Drought May Be Eligible for Aid

PHOTO: Some farmers and ranchers in New Mexico and other drought-ravaged Western states are eligible for emergency government loans linked to the USDA declaring 256 counties natural disaster areas. Photo courtesy U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
PHOTO: Some farmers and ranchers in New Mexico and other drought-ravaged Western states are eligible for emergency government loans linked to the USDA declaring 256 counties natural disaster areas. Photo courtesy U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
February 17, 2015

LAS CRUCES, N.M. - It may only be February, but several drought-ravaged counties in New Mexico and other Western states are already under a "primary natural disaster declaration."

Val Dolcini, who heads the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency, says the action opens up financial assistance programs to farmers and ranchers who have endured losses and damages because of the recent drought.

"The designation is sort of the door-opener for these benefits," says Dolcini. "They could be low-interest emergency loans, but it could also be participation in the Emergency Conservation Program, or a long list of other USDA programs."

In New Mexico, the designation applies to Colfax, McKinley, Quay, San Juan and Union counties, as well as several contiguous counties. Regionally, the USDA has declared primary natural disaster areas in 256 counties in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Nevada, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah.

The drought situation may not improve anytime soon. The most recent National Climate Assessment report conducted by the U.S. Global Change Research Program concluded that as temperatures continue to rise, droughts in the Southwest will be longer, and drier conditions will cause more significant wildfires. Dolcini says climate change has impacted farming nationwide.

"It's hard to deny that the climate has changed over the years," he says. "The impact that has on industries like agriculture is also hard to deny. We've seen incredible droughts over the course of the last four or five years throughout many parts of the United States."

The USDA has issued natural disaster declarations for several years as the drought has continued and intensified across much of the western U.S. Farmers and ranchers remain eligible for the USDA assistance programs for eight months from the date the designation was issued.

Troy Wilde, Public News Service - NM