Drought triggers USDA determination
By David Corrigan and Stephanie Salazar
HAWAII COUNTY: The ongoing drought on the Big Island has led to Hawaii County being designated as a primary natural disaster area, according to the office of Governor Neil Abercrombie.
The state says the U.S. Department of Agriculture made the determination after the governor applied last month.
The designation clears the way for Hawai’i Island farmers and ranchers to apply for available federal relief.
According to the National Weather Service, leeward slopes of Hawai’i Island continue to receive little rain. As a result, a classification of “extreme drought” persists in the South Kohala District and Pokakula Region of the Hamakua District. Increased rainfall has resulted in recent improvement from extreme drought in other areas, but the Ka’u and North Kona Districts remain within severe drought parameters. Moderate drought remains over parts of the South Kona District. Pastures and general vegetation from Kawaihae to Pohakuloa are described as being in “very poor” condition, and brush fires continue to be a concern.
Hawai’i County was formally designated a natural disaster area on Jan. 18, 2012. Qualified farm operators in the designated area are eligible for low interest emergency (EM) loans from USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) to cover losses. Eligible individuals have eight months from the date of the declaration to apply. FSA considers each loan application on its own merits.