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Disaster areas in Calif. make local farmers eligible for aid

The U.S. Department of Agriculture designated 27 California counties as primary natural-disaster areas last week because of a previous drought.

Because they are next door to designated disaster areas, Jackson, Josephine, Klamath and Lake county farmers and ranchers whose crops were damaged by drought may also qualify for assistance.

Qualified farm operators in the designated areas may be eligible for low-interest emergency loans from USDA's Farm Service Agency. 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.

The Farm Service Agency said it considers loan applications on their own merits, taking into account the extent of losses, security available and repayment ability.

Additional programs available to assist farmers and ranchers include the Emergency Conservation Program, Federal Crop Insurance and the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program. For eligibility requirements and application procedures programs, go to disaster.fsa.usda.gov.

The U.S. Small Business Administration says constituents suffering economic losses after the owner or a key employee was called up to active duty are eligible to apply for a low-interest loan of up to $2 million.

Small businesses can apply for a Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster Loan any time between the date of notice of expected call-up and one year after the date of discharge or release. The program was designed to help small businesses operate as if an owner or key employee hadn't been called to active duty.

The interest rate on such working capital loans is 4 percent, with terms up to 30 years. In general, the SBA said, no collateral is required to secure such a loan of $50,000 or less. The loan cannot be used to replace lost income or profits, refinance long-term debt or to expand the business.

Businesses can apply online at go.usa.gov/BcuA. To get an application by mail or ask questions about the loan program, contact SBA's Disaster Assistance Customer Service Center at 1-800-659-2955 or by email at disastercustomerservice@sba.gov.