Disaster Aid For Farmers Anticipated

Federal Money Aimed At Drought, Frost Damage

December 29, 1991|By Ed McDonough | Ed McDonough,Staff writer

County farmers will have a shot at part of $995 million in federal disaster relief money in 1992.

James C. Richardson, executive director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service office in Maryland, has estimated that up to $12 million in aid could be headed to Maryland. That would be added to $3 million in emergency assistance to help feed livestock.

Mavis Robertson of Carroll County's ASCS office said it's impossible to predict the amount of crop assistance.

It will depend on how much aid farmers from across the nation seek during the Feb. 3-March 30 sign-up period.

In an unusual twist, that $995 million plan will cover both the 1990 and 1991 growing seasons, said Ray M. Waggoner, director of the information division of ASCS in Washington.

Waggoner, who noted regulations for the disaster payments are still being written, said Congress did not approve a disaster plan for 1990 last year.

John E. Myers Jr., owner of Bachman Valley Farms north of Westminster, had losses in both years. In 1990, a late spring frost killed more than half of his apple, peach and pear crop, while 1991's drought hurt his green beans, peas, corn and soybeans.

"I've neverhad a year like this," he said of 1991.

Myers and other farmers will be able to file a claim only for one of the two years, Waggoner said.

The federal disaster payments are not expected to compensate fully farmers for their drought losses.

Carroll's losses were estimated at about $17.5 million; statewide losses were pegged at about $100 million.

But for some farmers, any help is good news.

"I don't think any of us in agriculture would expect to be compensated forour entire loss," Manchester dairy farmer Richard L. Moser said. "But just being able to keep farms intact is good for the consumer."

Moser said that while some taxpayers may grumble about disaster payments, such programs help keep small family farms in business. In the long run, he added, that's good for consumers at the grocery store.

For example, he said U.S. consumers rarely suffer through shortages of important food items. If drought or flooding damages the crop in one part of the country, farmers in other areas usually are able to maintain a good supply.

Also, he said that feed grains are availableto area farmers from producers in nearby regions who did not suffer from drought. The only problem, he added, is that area livestock producers must pay for that grain; in a good year, they would be using their own stock.

One other bright spot for dairy farmers, he said, is the recent increase in milk prices. After reaching their lowest levels in a decade earlier this year, prices have rebounded.

Farmers were receiving about $11 per hundred pounds of raw milk when the prices bottomed out. Recently, Moser said the price has climbed to $14.

David Green, interim director of the Carroll County Extension Service, said one concern is rising grain prices.

With livestock farmers from the mid-Atlantic and New England areas buying more grain and hay than usual over the next several months because of the drought, "There is the potential for the prices to go up," Green said.

He noted that low national stockpiles of corn and wheat already have causedincreases in the cost of those

commodities. Corn that was sellingfor $12 to $18 per ton at harvest now costs $18 to $27 per ton.

Green said some farmers requesting emergency assistance were hurt because the 1991 barley crop wasn't affected by the drought. That offset corn, soybean and hay losses and caused feed assistance cuts to some farmers, he said.

While farmers in the Mid-Atlantic, New England and eastern Corn Belt suffered through the drought, part of that $995 million goes to farmers in the Southeast, where heavy rains and floods caused extensive damage, Waggoner said. And some will go to farmersaffected in 1990, too.

DEADLINES NEAR

The Carroll County Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service reminds farmers of deadlines to apply for assistance and incentive programs:

* Emergency Feed Program -- Livestock producers who suffered at least a 40 percent loss of feed crops during last summer's drought and do not have enough feed for the winter must apply by Tuesday.

* Wood and Mohair Incentive Program -- Sales documents for the 1988 marketing year must befiled by Tuesday. Documents for 1989, 1990 and 1991 must be filed byMarch 2.

* 1992 Feed, Grain and Wheat Program -- A 5 percent acreage reduction requirement is in effect for 1992 wheat, corn and barley, and farmers may sign up Feb. 10 through April. 17.

* Dairy Refund Program -- Producers may submit documents beginning Thursday.

Information: 848-2780.

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