The federal government last fall offered low-interest loans to northern Utah farmers and ranchers strapped financially as their crops withered in a disastrous drought, but none have applied, officials say.
Lee Hawks, loan director with the Farmer's Home Loan Administration, which administers the federal drought disaster relief program, said 10 to 15 farmers and ranchers have made inquiries but no applications.Hawks said the farmers may be taking advantage of more immediate aid through the U.S. Agriculture Stabilization and Conservation Service office in Tremonton.
"The farmers have until July or August to apply, so they may be still getting things together at the end of the year," Hawks said. "But I would think we would get some by now. Usually you get quite a lot of activity right up front.
"The ASCS came in with their emergency feed program, so they've satisfied a lot of farmers needs," he said.
The 4.5 percent-interest disaster relief loans were made available to farmers and ranchers in Box Elder and surrounding counties who had suffered 30 percent crop and feed losses in one of the driest summers recorded in northern Utah.
The loans would pay for fertilizer and machinery and for livestock feed, which farmers with little or no profit were unable to buy, Hawks said.
To be eligible, farmers must have collateral, show they cannot find commercial loans and prove they can repay the loans.
Two other federal programs, available through the ASCS, require no disaster declaration and do not have to be paid back, said Mark Jensen, county representative with the ASCS.
"There was such a big fuss about the disaster declaration for the loans, but the thing about it is these (ASCS) programs were already in place," he said.
Jensen said when the drought worsened, people criticized the ASCS for not pushing faster for a disaster declaration.
"So we filled out the forms and got it, and nothing happened," he said.
His office also administers the federal Emergency Feed Program, which provides ranchers with corn and barley feed for nearly half price and gives cost-sharing grants for feed.
Sixty-six farmers have received a total of $212,078 in cost-sharing grants since last fall for livestock feed, Jensen said.
About 8,105 bushels of corn and 9,167 bushels of barley have been sold to farmers through the ASCS and paid for by a formula set by the federal government.
Farmers pay $2.70 per hundredweight of corn, while the market price is about $5.35, and $2.60 per hundredweight of barley, which has a market price of about $5.
The Federal Disaster Assistance Act, passed by Congress last September, reimburses farmers for crop losses. About 192 growers have applied for and received the grants, Jensen said.
"We've paid out $2.9 million so far," he said.
About 500 Box Elder County ranchers and farmers were eligible for reimbursement because they lost 35 percent of their crops, Jensen said.
"It's pretty slow now. We've got a few stragglers, but basically, we've got the bulk of them," he said.
Jensen said the disaster assistance program will expire after 1989 unless another act is passed by Congress.