Nine Nevada Counties Declared Natural Disaster Areas - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe News Weather, Video -

Nine Nevada Counties Declared Natural Disaster Areas

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Agriculture is Nevada's third biggest industry, behind mining and tourism.

But after two years of drought, farmers and ranchers are feeling the impact.

Last year, Nevada exported more than $500 million worth of ag products.

"Some of our Timothy Hay and alfalfa gets exported all over the world," Clint Koble, State Executive Director for the USDA said. "We have some huge cattle operations here. We've got some of the largest onion producers in the nation here. Some of the largest potato producers here."

Some farmers have seen their production nearly cut in half, with some getting just 10% of their normal water allotment.

Bob Jones is a contract farmer that has seen it all over the state.

"It's dramatically less," Jones said. "Lovelock's a good example and you go down to Yerington. And if you don't have the snowpack, you don't have the water to put on the field."

All 17 of Nevada's counties are eligible for federal assistance because of the drought.

The nine Nevada counties include Clark, Washoe, Lyon, Nye, Churchill, Lander, Mineral, Pershing and Humboldt. 

Douglas, Esmerelda, Lincoln, White Pine, Elko, Eureka, Storey and Carson City are also eligible because they are adjacent to the primary counties.

The designation means farmers and ranchers qualify for low-interest emergency loans from the agriculture department, at 2.875%.  

The money can be used for a variety of operating costs.

"No matter how tough it's been for them, they have a great track record of paying back all of those loans," Koble said. "Even if the tough times. Hopefully, we can help them to stay on top and keep going until things turn around for them."

Nevada's livestock population has dropped about 30% in the last two years because of water supply.

Jones says the lack of water is keeping grasses from growing on range land, and that affects wildlife and cattle. 

"There's a lot of people that turn cattle out for feed and if you don't have feed, you can't turn cows out," Jones said. "They have to have something to eat."

Officials say it's extremely important that these emergency loans are available because there is still no farm bill in place.

Congress could pass one within the next month.

Written by Paul Nelson
 
Additional programs available to assist farmers and ranchers include the Emergency Conservation Program, Federal Crop Insurance, and the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program. Interested farmers may contact their local USDA Service Centers for further information on eligibility requirements and application procedures for these and other programs. Additional information is also available online at http://disaster.fsa.usda.gov.
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