The U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated 79 counties in Mississippi as primary natural disaster areas due to losses caused by the combined effects of severe spring and fall flooding, and summer drought, that occurred March 1, 2009, and continuing.

The 79 counties are:

Adams, Alcorn, Amite, Attala, Benton, Bolivar, Calhoun, Carroll, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Claiborne, Clarke, Clay, Coahoma, Copiah, Covington, De Soto,

Forrest, Franklin, George, Greene, Grenada, Hancock, Harrison, Hinds, Holmes, Humphreys, Issaquena, Itawamba, Jackson, Jasper, Jefferson, Jefferson Davis, Jones,

Lafayette, Lamar, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Leake, Lee, Leflore, Lincoln, Lowndes, Madison, Marion, Marshall, Monroe, Montgomery, Noxubee, Oktibbeha,

Panola, Pearl River, Perry, Pike, Pontotoc, Prentiss, Quitman, Rankin, Scott, Sharkey, Simpson, Smith, Stone, Sunflower,

Tallahatchie, Tate, Tippah, Tishomingo, Tunica, Union, Walthall, Warren, Washington, Wayne, Webster, Wilkinson, Winston, Yalobusha, and Yazoo.

“President Obama and I understand these conditions caused severe damage to the area and serious harm to farms in Mississippi and we want to help,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “This action will provide help to hundreds of farmers who suffered significant production losses to a wide variety of crops including corn, cotton, rice, soybeans, wheat, pasture and forage crops.”

Farm operators in Kemper, Neshoba and Newton counties in Mississippi also qualify for natural disaster assistance because their counties are contiguous.

Farm operators in the counties and parishes listed below in the adjacent states of Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Tennessee also qualify for natural disaster assistance because their counties are contiguous.

Alabama: Choctaw, Colbert, Franklin, Lamar, Lauderdale, Marion, Mobile, Pickens, Sumter and Washington.

Arkansas: Chicot, Crittenden, Desha, Lee and Phillips.

Louisiana: Concordia, East Carroll, East Feliciana, Madison, St. Helena, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Tensas, Washington and West Feliciana.

Tennessee: Fayette, Hardeman, Hardin, McNairy and Shelby.

All counties and parishes listed above were designated natural disaster areas Nov. 13, making all qualified farm operators in the designated areas eligible for low interest emergency (EM) loans from USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA), provided eligibility requirements are met.

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.

FSA has a variety of programs, in addition to the EM loan program, to help eligible farmers recover from adversity.

USDA has also made other programs available to assist farmers and ranchers, including the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Program (SURE), which was approved as part of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008; the Emergency Conservation Program; Federal Crop Insurance; and the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program.

Interested farmers should 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.