Olmsted, Mower join counties seeking aid

By Ashley H. Grant

Associated Press

ST. PAUL -- Minnesota's application for federal agricultural disaster relief is in the mail and Olmsted and Mower counties are among those seeking help.

"The letter has been drafted and is on its way to Washington," Gene Hugoson, Minnesota's commissioner of agriculture, said Monday.

The initial request includes 62 counties and he expects that number to rise after a second assessment by the Farm Service Agency in October. To qualify, counties must have lost at least 30 percent of at least one crop.


The number of counties qualifying for drought aid has increased from the initial assessment conducted by the Farm Service Agency showing that 49 counties met the threshold for crop loss.

Olmsted, Mower and Steele counties were not included in the assessment done earlier this month, but all other counties in the southeastern corner of the state were.

A lack of rain this summer has damaged crops across the state. As of now, state officials are estimating losses of about $1.1 billion in crops alone, not including the ripple effect on other industries, Hugoson said.

U.S. Department of Agriculture disaster declarations trigger low-interest loans to eligible producers in the disaster areas.

"Many of these counties, located primarily in the northeast, southeast and central areas of the state, have received less than an inch of rainfall since the first week in July through the first part of September," Gov. Tim Pawlenty wrote in his request to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman.

Corn will have poor quality and cobs that aren't filled to the end, he said. And soybeans are producing fewer pods, containing smaller beans, and aphids have infested some southeastern Minnesota soybean fields.

Pasture, alfalfa and hay crops have taken a hit in central and northeast Minnesota, the governor wrote.

About 85 percent of corn acres are covered by crop insurance. Other crops such as soybeans and sugar beets are covered at even higher levels.


But, Hugoson added, "Insurance doesn't make farmers whole. Nobody is going to get the full value of that crop."

David Ward, chairman of the Minnesota Corn Research and Promotion Council, said the disaster declaration would help.

"Obviously, many areas of the state are suffering quite an economic loss," he said. "We are expecting yields below average for the bulk of the state."

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