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Farmers hurt by El Nino could get aid

But few in Southern Oregon likely to qualify for loans

Farmers in Jackson, Josephine and Klamath counties who suffered crop losses because of El Nino may be eligible for emergency federal loans.

But regional officials aren't sure any farmers suffered enough damage to qualify for the loans.

Nobody has really reported any problems that would qualify, says Carole Williams, Jackson County executive director for the United States Department of Agriculture.

Farmers would have to have suffered a 30 percent loss in at least one commodity, according to farm loan manager Karen Boyles.

We are still waiting to see the full effects, Boyles says. It's still a little early.

The three Southern Oregon counties were designated secondary counties in a federal major disaster declaration that took effect Oct. 1. Twenty California counties, including Siskiyou, were listed as primary disaster areas. Because all three Oregon counties border Siskiyou County, they are listed as secondary areas.

The unusual length of the wet season this spring prompted the declaration. Losses that occurred from May — to July 29 may be eligible.

Applications will be accepted through June 1, 1999. Farmers with questions can call the Jackson/Josephine County Farm Service Agency at 776-4270.

Although Siskiyou County is a primary disaster area, officials there haven't received any applications and don't expect many.

I don't think we will get very many people that will qualify, says Joe Ulics, executive director of the Siskiyou County office.

The potato crop in eastern Siskiyou County was hardest hit. Ulics says early estimates put losses at 20-25 percent.

In the three Oregon counties, most concern centered around the grain crop.

We did have some producers complain (that) the grain didn't stool properly so some yields were down, says Williams of Jackson and Josephine county farmers.

Hoyles, who is based in Klamath County, said the grain yield in some areas was off almost a third.

The low-interest loans are available only if farmers can't get financial help elsewhere -- a condition that will also limit the number of applications.

If they did have a disaster, they probably have a bank that will work with them, Williams says.