Drought, wildfires lead to natural disaster declaration by USDA

Published: Jun. 29, 2011 at 2:32 AM CDT|Updated: Dec. 15, 2014 at 1:16 AM CST
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LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - Several South Plains counties are being called disaster areas by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In all, 213 counties in Texas have lost at least 30 percent of their crops or pasture due to the drought and wildfires, according to the USDA.

By declaring a natural disaster, farmers and ranchers will be able to qualify for emergency loans at lower interest rates. Every county in the South Plains is eligible.

Tuesday we talked to South Plains farmers about the declaration.

"This is a disaster," Scott Harmon continued. "This is a train wreck."

Harmon's family has been farming land just south of Idalou since the 1920's.

"We've never seen anything like this before," Harmon told us. "People are scared, they don't know what to do and what's going to happen to them next."

On Monday, Harmon declared 3,400 acres of dry land cotton a total loss. Now he's considering a gamble with mother nature on his irrigated crop.

"People are trying to decide whether to abandon half a pivot, only water half and declare the other part dry land, or try to forge ahead with hopes of rain coming," said Harmon.

Harmon's family also ranches. In October, cattle must move off CRP land. He's hoping the disaster declaration will move the government to explore extending grazing time.

"Basically that's all there is for cattle in this country is CRP and if we have to move off that the first of October, that's going to be wreck," Harmon said.

Right now, Harmon doesn't think he'll apply for an emergency loan. He says he doubts other farmers will want to take out any more money.

With grim weather forecasts, it's difficult for Harmon to predict his next move for his land, his crops, and his livelihood.

"Man is trying to put all the water he can on it, and he doesn't feel like he's getting anywhere."

For more information about the USDA disaster declaration (CLICK_HERE).

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