The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

USDA disaster designation includes 7 UP counties

Gogebic, Ontonagon listed as contiguous counties


November 21, 2019


LANSING — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer applauded the U.S. Department of Agriculture for designating 43 counties — including seven Upper Peninsula counties — as primary natural disaster areas Tuesday. Along with these primary areas, Gogebic and Ontonagon counties were included as contiguous counties as they border primary counties.

The designation makes assistance available to agriculture producers in those counties impacted by adverse weather conditions, a governor’s spokesperson said in a news release.

“This relief can’t come soon enough for our struggling farmers who endured tremendous hardship through this growing season,” Whitmer said in the release. “I am grateful to USDA and our Michigan delegation, especially our Senators, for the leadership they’ve taken as well to ensure our hardworking farmers receive the assistance and supports they need.”

Along with Alger, Delta, Dickinson, Iron, Marquette, Menominee and Schoolcraft counties in the U.P., the disaster designation included Antrim, Benzie, Berrien, Cass, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Clinton, Eaton, Emmet, Genesee, Grand Traverse, Gratiot, Hillsdale, Huron, Ingham, Kalkaska, Lapeer, Leelanau, Oakland, Oceana, Otsego, Presque Isle, Roscommon, St. Clair, St. Joseph, Sanilac, Shiawassee, Washtenaw and Wayne counties.

As both Gogebic and Ontonagon counties border Iron County, local farmers may also have access to assistance.

“A secretarial disaster designation makes farm operators in primary counties and those counties contiguous to such primary counties eligible to be considered for certain assistance from (the Farm Service Agency), provided eligibility requirements are met,” USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue wrote in his letter to Whitmer announcing his decision. “This assistance includes FSA emergency loans.”

The 43 counties were included in the designation due to losses caused by rain, flooding, flash flooding and cold temperatures that occurred from the beginning of March through the fall harvest.

Whitmer cited data from the National Centers for Environmental Information that the state received 37.9 inches of rain between May 1, 2018 and April 30, 2019 in her June 19 letter to Perdue seeking the designation. This would make it the third wettest year in our history, Whitmer wrote, with the state just having “3.5 days of suitable field work as of June 9, according to the most recent USDA Crop Progress Report.”

These challenging conditions have resulted in only 63% of corn being planted by June 9, compared to 88% at that point last year, Whitmer wrote, and only 43% of the state’s soybeans in the ground at that time.

“Michigan’s farmers were affected by everything from severe cold to historic rainfall events and early snowfall in 2019, which impacted both planting and harvest this year,” Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development director Gary McDowell said. “These extraordinary weather conditions had a devastating impact on our farming and agricultural community.”

Whitmer asked the federal government for increased flexibility under Federal Crop Insurance rules so impacted farmers have more options in an effort to salvage the planting season and that excessive moisture and ponding be included as eligible flooding in regards to the over $3 billion Congress approved in agricultural disaster assistance in 2019.

Along with issuing the designation for the 43 counties, the USDA announced it needs additional time to assess production losses in 17 additional counties. The USDA is deferring a decision on Arenac, Barry, Bay, Branch, Clare, Gladwin, Ionia, Lake, Mecosta, Midland, Missaukee, Ogemaw, Osceola, Oscoda, Tuscola, Van Buren and Wexford counties.

“I am pleased the USDA responded to our request and I’m looking forward to the further assessment of those counties not included in this designation,” Whitmer said.

The federal designation makes farm operators eligible to be considered for certain types of Farm Service Agency assistance, a Whitmer spokesperson said in the release — including emergency loans and the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus.

Producers can contact their local FSA office for more information.


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