Feds call state agriculture disaster area due to drought
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns has declared all four Hawaii counties primary disaster areas due to losses caused by the ongoing statewide drought.
The declaration makes available low-interest emergency loans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to qualified farmers and ranchers. Johanns' declaration became effective Friday. Producers have eight months from that date to apply for loans to help cover part of their actual losses.
The loans have a 3.75 percent interest rate and farmers and ranchers needed to have lost 30 percent of their production or livestock, said Jason Shitanishi, executive director of the Farm Service Agency's Honolulu County office.
Eligibility requirements and application information for emergency loans and other programs are available at the agency's offices in each county and online at www.fsa.usda.gov/ FSA/webapp?area=home& subject=fmlp&topic=efl.
The period of loss for eligibility purposes started Jan. 1. However, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration rainfall data indicate the drought started last year, Shitanishi said.
Hawaii, Maui and Kauai officials last month issued voluntary or mandatory water conservation measures for parts of their respective counties. And the state Department of Agriculture issued mandatory water conservation for the Waimanalo Irrigation System on Oahu.
Shitanishi said Maui and Hawaii are being harder hit by drought than the other counties.
Big Island Mayor Harry Kim issued an emergency proclamation that said rainfall in some areas is 50 percent below normal.
Gov. Linda Lingle asked the USDA for the declaration. She said the current drought conditions are being compounded in some areas by severe damage to key irrigation systems from last October's earthquakes.