When the U.S. Department of Agriculture declared most of Oklahoma a drought disaster area at the end of July, Arvest Bank provided information to its agricultural customers that could help them minimize losses.
“We wanted to provide some information that could help our customers not only plan for the future but to also help them make the right decisions for their operations right now,” said Roger Holroyd, executive vice president and loan manager for Arvest in Siloam Springs, Ark.
According to the USDA, the disaster designation makes farmers in the named counties and some contiguous counties, including some in Arkansas, eligible to be considered for federal assistance from several government agencies, including the Farm Service Agency (FSA).
No counties in Arkansas were designated as disaster areas but farmers in counties contiguous with declared Oklahoma counties could qualify for assistance. Those counties include Crawford, Little River, Polk, Scott, Sebastian and Sevier.
Farmers need to talk with their accountant or tax professional about the course of action best suited to their individual situation. For example, some farmers may qualify for capital gains tax relief for animals sold due to drought conditions.
The FSA has a variety of programs, including a low interest emergency loan program, to help eligible farmers recover from adversity.
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.
The USDA has made other programs available to assist farmers and ranchers, including the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Program, the Emergency Conservation Program, Federal Crop Insurance and the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program.
The drought has taken such a toll on grazing lands and hay fields that the fodder is in short supply and at a high cost. Many farmers may have to choose between feeding their cattle or selling them to avoid the added expense. Even those farmers who choose to keep and feed their cattle may have trouble finding available hay on the market.
Jim Singleton is the Community President of Arvest Bank in Gravette, Ark.


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