USDA declares three Mich. counties disaster areas

Michael Gerstein
The Detroit News

Lansing — The federal government has designated three Michigan counties disaster areas because of agricultural damage caused by frost and a freeze in May.

Ingham, Jackson and Livingston counties are to be considered “primary natural disaster areas” by the U.S. Department of Agriculture because of the frost and freeze damage during May 7-9, according to the department.

Nine other counties will also be eligible for USDA disaster aid, including Oakland County. Washtenaw, Shiawassee, Genesee, Hillsdale, Lenawee, Calhoun, Clinton and Eaton counties will also qualify for federal disaster aid, the department said.

Being designated as a natural disaster area allows farmers within them to qualify for emergency federal loans if they meet certain requirements, according to the federal agency.

Farmers who suffered at least 30 percent loss in crop production or physical livestock can borrow money to cover up to 100 percent of production or crop losses up to $500,000.

Loans are typically repaid within one to seven years depending on the purpose of the loan, the farmer’s ability to repay and collateral offered. In some cases, the USDA authorizes 20-year loan repayment terms. The department said loans for real estate losses are usually repaid within 30 years, and in some cases up to 40 years, however.

Early this fall, apple experts were expecting lower-than-normal crop yields. In September, Apple analysts projected a 20.3 million bushel crop, down 28 percent from a robust 28 million bushels in 2016 and down 4 million bushels or about 17 percent from an average year, according to the Michigan Apple Committee.

But the shortfall didn’t affect the varieties that were available to consumers.