Gov. Walker announced Wednesday, July 25, the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved his request to designate 23 Wisconsin counties as primary natural disaster areas.
Gov. Walker requested the designation last week.
"Under this designation, all qualified farm operators in the affected counties are eligible for low-interest emergency loans," Governor Walker said. "We are doing everything we can to assist farmers who are losing crops due to the extended period where we saw a lack of rain combined with extreme heat. This is one more option for farmers trying to recover from the drought."
Following a recent tour of drought-stricken farms in Wisconsin to get a first-hand look at the crop loss and get input from farmers on the best route to recovery, Gov. Walker announced the state is opening up some state-owned lands for hay and grazing. Earlier this month, Go. Walker declared a state of emergency in all Wisconsin counties which expedites permits for farmers to temporarily use stream or lake water for irrigation.
The Wisconsin counties designated as primary natural disaster areas are: Adams, Columbia, Crawford, Dane, Dodge, Fond du Lac, Grant, Green, Green Lake, Iowa, Jefferson, Kenosha, Lafayette, Marquette, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Richland, Rock, Sauk and Walworth.
For comprehensive information and resources relating to the 2012 drought and heat wave, go to www.ready.wi.gov.
Gov. Walker also announced the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA) will offer drought relief assistance.
In response to his declaration of a state of emergency for all 72 Wisconsin counties WHEDA will begin accepting applications for its Drought Relief Guarantee Program.
The Drought Relief Guarantee Program is a financing product that will provide a 90 percent guarantee on agricultural loans up to $15,000 for three years.
In addition, WHEDA will provide interest reduction payments to lender partners allowing for lower interest rate loans for drought-affected farms.
"Our state's farmers are enduring severe drought conditions and require the type of immediate support WHEDA can readily make available," said WHEDA Executive Director Wyman Winston. "With our long history of supplying agricultural loans, WHEDA can step up and provide critical relief to ag producers who are essential to the success of our state's economy."
To use the Drought Relief Guarantee Program, eligible farmers must be expected to lose 40 percent or more of their crops due to drought conditions. Loan proceeds can be used for fertilizer, seed, fuel, pesticides, tillage services, crop insurance, water delivery and animal feed.
For more information and eligibility requirements about WHEDA's Drought Relief Guarantee Program, visit www.wheda.com.