The U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated Aroostook, Hancock, Penobscot, Piscataquis and Somerset counties as primary natural disaster areas in three separate disaster designations.

Aroostook County received a disaster designation for drought that occurred between Aug. 1 and Sept. 15, 2009. Somerset County received a designation for heavy rains, flash flooding and high winds that occurred from June 1, 2009, and continuing. Hancock, Penobscot and Piscataquis counties received a designation for heavy rains and subsequent drought from June 9 through Aug. 30, 2009.

“President Obama and I understand these conditions caused severe damage to the area and serious harm to farms in Maine and we want to help,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “This action will provide help to hundreds of farmers who suffered significant production losses to potatoes, blueberries, corn and forage.”

Farmers and ranchers in the following counties in Maine also qualify for natural disaster assistance because their counties are contiguous: Franklin, Kennebec, Knox, Waldo and Washington.

All counties listed above were designated natural disaster areas Jan. 4, 2010, making all qualified farm and ranch operators in the designated areas eligible for low interest emergency loans from USDA’s Farm Service Agency, provided eligibility requirements are met. Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of the declaration to apply for loans to help cover part of their actual losses.

FSA will consider each loan application on its own merits, taking into account the extent of losses, security available and repayment ability. FSA has a variety of programs, in addition to the EM loan program, to help eligible farmers and ranchers recover from adversity.

USDA has also made other programs available to assist farmers and ranchers, including the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Program, which was approved as part of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008; the Emergency Conservation Program; Federal Crop Insurance; and the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program. Interested producers may contact their local USDA Service Centers for further information on eligibility requirements and application procedures for these and other programs. Additional information is also available online at

FSA news releases are available on FSA’s Web site at via the “News and Events” link.