All 88 Ohio counties given disaster status

COLUMBUS – U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman has designated Ohio as a disaster area due to agricultural losses caused by drought and other extreme weather.

Livestock compensation. This designation will make farmers in all 88 counties eligible for disaster assistance in the form of emergency low-interest loans. Livestock farmers in Ohio who have at least a 30 percent documented loss due to drought in 2001 and 2002 will also be eligible for a portion of $752 million from the Livestock Compensation Program.

Ohio Agriculture Director Fred L. Dailey expects this year’s crop loss due to drought to rival that of past droughts in Ohio, such as in 1988, 1991, and 1999.

Hard hit. The USDA’s damage assessments in August estimate that almost half the counties can expect total crop losses of 30 to 50 percent, and 17 counties can expect losses of 50 percent or more.

“Ohio was the hardest hit state in the Corn Belt,” Dailey said. “While pastureland seems to be improving in some areas thanks to the recent rains, our hay inventory has suffered, and the rains were much too late to save the grain crops. They needed it in July and August.”

All but tiny corners of Ohio were in drought going into the first week of October, and topsoil moisture was way below normal. Consequently, corn and soybean yields are expected to be down at least 20 percent from last year, and only a third of Ohio’s pastureland is in fair to good condition, compared to 80 percent last year.

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