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SWGA counties receive disaster designation

ALBANY. Ga. -- The summer's hot and dry conditions have come back to bite Georgians.

Gov. Sonny Perdue announced Monday that United States Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack had designated 151 Georgia counties, including several in Southwest Georgia, as primary disaster areas as a result of drought and excessive heat in the state from earlier this year.

The designation came as a result of a request submitted by Perdue.

"Georgia's economy relies heavily on our agriculture industry," the governor said in a statement. "I appreciate Secretary Vilsack's commitment to do everything in his power to assist farmers in counties that have been hit hard by dry weather and extreme heat in the past several months."

Based on damage assessment reports from the USDA, farmers in the impacted counties sustained 30 percent or greater production loss to a single enterprise due to the drought conditions. The designation allows these farmers to be considered for low-interest emergency loans from the Farm Service Agency.

The counties impacted in Southwest Georgia include Baker, Ben Hill, Calhoun, Decatur, Dougherty, Early, Grady, Lee, Miller, Mitchell, Seminole, Stewart, Sumter, Terrell, Thomas, Tift and Turner, among others.

There are a total of 159 counties in Georgia. Farmers in the remaining eight contiguous counties -- Camden, Glynn, Jasper, Morgan, Clayton, Greene, McIntosh and Newton -- are eligible for assistance in accordance with the Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act.

Farmers have until July 26, 2011 to apply for assistance. The FSA, while reviewing the applications, will consider extent of production loss, security available and repayment ability.

Those wishing to locate an FSA office in their area may visit www.usda.gov.