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Farmers eligible for disaster assistance after rain-soaked spring

Corn struggles to grow in a field on 200 west just south of S.R. 8 near Hebron. Heavy rain and flooding hampered some farmer's crop production this year.

After one of the most rain-soaked planting seasons in recent memory, farmers in Northwest Indiana qualify for natural disaster assistance.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture determined farmers in all 92 counties across Indiana are eligible for Farm Service Agency assistance, which includes access to low-interest loans if they can show at least a 30% loss in crop production.

After soggy fields meant a late start for crop planting, the USDA last week rated 32% of Indiana's corn good to excellent as compared to 59% nationwide, and 33% of Indiana's soybeans good to excellent, as compared to 58% across the United States.

“I am grateful that Secretary (Sonny) Perdue and his team recognized the hardships Hoosier farmers experienced this planting season,” Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb said. “As a result of this designation, farmers in all 92 counties are now eligible for assistance, and I encourage those impacted to work with their local Farm Service Agency office.”

The loans can be used to pay production costs, cover family living expenses, restore property, reorganize farming operations or refinance debts. Farmers can borrow up to $500,000 to cover up to 100% of production or physical losses

“This has been an unprecedented year for Indiana farmers,” said Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch, Indiana’s secretary of Agriculture and Rural Development. 

The designation also lets farmers in some cases have payments on Farm Service Agency loans deferred if they are unable to make them. 

“Farmers, who have been doing this their entire lives, acknowledge this has been one of the toughest seasons on record, and we’re not in the clear yet,” Indiana State Department of Agriculture Director Bruce Kettler said. “While we know this isn’t a cure-all solution, this assistance is welcome news and will help those severely impacted.”

Though the Region is generally more industrial and suburban in nature, Northwest Indiana still has a sizable agricultural sector. A 2015 Purdue University study found that crop production in Benton, Jasper, Lake, LaPorte, Newton, Porter, Pulaski, Starke and White counties had an annual economic impact of $3.2 billion, and animal agriculture in Northwest Indiana generated another $1.19 billion in yearly economic activity, supporting more than 5,900 jobs.

The deadline to apply for the federal assistance is April 29. 2020.

For more information, visit www.fsa.usda.gov.

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.