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Friday, July 28, 2000

Loans OK’d for
isle ranchers

The losses in livestock
and farming operations are
expected to exceed
$9.1 million this year

By Steve Murray


Hawaii's drought caused some $6.5 million in losses for Hawaii's ranchers and dairy farmers last year, the state Department of Agriculture says.

This year the loses will rise to $9.1 million, estimated Doreen K. Shishido, a state agricultural loan administrator.

To help Hawaii's cattle farmers, the Board of Agriculture yesterday passed a resolution allowing for emergency loans of up to $250,000 at 3 percent interest to the islands' ranchers and dairy farmers whose efforts to get loans have been rejected by private lenders.

Below-average rainfall has parched many parts of the islands for the past two years.

Recent rains have kept the drought from getting worse, but officials say much more rain is needed before the drought-stricken areas can recover.

Shishido said the drought has meant higher than normal livestock deaths and reduced birth rates and weight for cattle, which translates into less revenue for ranchers.

Also, he said, there is less pasture for cattle to feed on, so ranchers have to buy more feed.

The board also got a briefing on the Hawaii Drought Plan, which is being put together to help the state improve preparation and response to droughts.

The drought plan, expected to be completed by September, would provide loans and technical assistance to ranchers and farmers. The plan would include measures that will be put into effect before the governor would have to declare an emergency.

Federal help also could come with the plan. The state's effort will be sent to Congress as part of a larger proposal to set up financing for Western states to deal with droughts.

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