Disaster declaration provides assistance to growers and businesses

Farmers in Mesa and Delta counties and other neighboring counties whose crops were damaged by a severe April freeze can access emergency loans and other assistance as a result of a federal disaster declaration.

Small, nonfarm businesses also are eligible for federal disaster assistance.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue designated Mesa and Delta counties as primary disaster areas. Garfield, Gunnison, Montrose and Pitkin counties in Western Colorado and Grand and San Juan counties in Eastern Utah were included in the designation as contiguous areas.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis and Agriculture Commissioner Kate Greenberg requested the declaration given the prospect of crop losses and reduced harvests as a result of the freeze in mid-April.

By one estimate, the freeze decimated 95 percent of the peach crop. The Colorado peach industry produces about 17,000 tons of fruit and brings in nearly $40 million annually. The industry constitutes a key economic driver in Mesa as well as Delta, Montrose and Montezuma counties.

The declaration makes farmers eligible for assistance from the Farm Services Agency, including emergency loans. For more information, visit the FSA website at www.fsa.usda.gov.

Small, nonfarm businesses, including agricultural cooperatives, may qualify for economic injury disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration. Loans of up to $2 million are available to pay for operating expenses and other financial obligations that would have been met had the disaster not occurred.

“SBA eligibility covers both the economic impacts on businesses dependent on farmers and ranchers that have suffered agricultural production losses caused by the disaster and businesses directly impacted by the disaster,” said Tanya Garfield, director of center and west SBA disaster field operations.

For more information, visit the website at  https://disasterloanassistance.sba.gov.