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Wolf: County Farmers May Be Eligible For Disaster Relief Funding

December 5, 2018

Wolf: County Farmers May Be Eligible For Disaster Relief Funding

Gov. Tom Wolf announced farmers in Luzerne County and 13 other Pennsylvania counties who suffered losses from excessive rain and flooding in 2018 may be eligible to receive disaster relief funding, but some are not certain yet if they will apply.

The funding is the result of a disaster declaration and can include emergency loans from the federal Farm Service Agency.

Larry O’Malia, who owns a farm and greenhouses in Plains Twp., said he has been down this path before when loans are offered and he might get better interest rates from his bank than the government.

“If I had a choice to make for a loan, I’d probably go to my own local banking institution,” O’Malia said.

After days of heavy rain in August, O’Malia said the rising Susquehanna River caused “total devastation” on his farm.

“We lost everything from A to Z,” he said. “We were getting our produce from other local farmers and we would go up and down all of eastern Pennsylvania to see what we could get from where to just keep the place operating.”

In January, he said he and his brother, Gary, will look at what funding options are offered.

After losing so many crops in August, O’Malia’s greenhouses were busy on Tuesday with customers buying poinsettias for the holidays.

O’Malia said in January, he will see how their Christmas season and year went and make a decision about whether or not to apply for disaster relief funding.

“If we’re stable enough to start the new year without doing that, I’ll proceed without it,” he said.

He expects when the year is over and he looks back at the numbers, however, they’re “not going to be good.”

“Everything that we had in those fields along the Susquehanna was a total loss,” he said. “It’s a very sad situation for us but I am thankful we have a successful greenhouse operation. That may not necessarily be the case for everyone else.”

Keith Hilliard, who owns 330 acres of farmland with his wife in Sugarloaf Twp., said the heavy rain in the summer wiped out about 25 percent of their corn and hay crops.

Hilliard, who also is president of the Luzerne County Farm Bureau, said the damage from excessive rain over the summer was widespread at farms throughout Luzerne County.

He doesn’t know yet if he will apply for disaster relief funding but he said he will “look at it and go from there.”

“I’m going to have to sit down and study it and see where we’re at and then make a business decision,” he said.

Farmland owners in Luzerne County as well as Adams, Berks, Columbia, Cumberland, Dauphin, Lancaster, Lebanon, Lycoming, Montour, Northumberland, Schuylkill, Sullivan and York counties are eligible to receive the funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Wolf said.

“This funding will provide relief to Pennsylvania farmers who dealt with a year of unexpected difficulties due to severe weather,” Wolf said.

Wolf said he encourages farmers in eligible areas to apply so that they can receive the assistance they need to help recoup losses ahead of the next growing season.

Eligible farmers can apply for loans for up to eight months after a disaster declaration and should contact their local FSA office for assistance. More information on USDA’s disaster assistance program, including county lists and maps, can be found at disaster.fsa.usda.gov.

Contact the writer:

dallabaugh@citizensvoice.com, 570-821-2115, @CVAllabaugh

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