Farmers Could Get Federal Aid for Crop Damage

REGION 8 -- Governor Beebe declared 34 counties in Arkansas disaster areas because of crop loss due to last week's freezing temps. 17 of those counties are here in Region 8.

The beginning of spring was extremely warm and then, Mother Nature took a turn and temperatures plummeted down into the 20's. The wheat crop took the hardest hit.

"They've got all their costs in it, all their fertilizer, their seed and everything is spent, and now we're right at the tail end of the season and some of the fields are just terrible," says Steve Culp, the Craighead County Extension Agent.

Darin Walton farms wheat in Poinsett County. We showed you his field the weekend the cold weather came through. Today, he's beginning to realize just how bad his loss may be.

"Now, we're beginning to shift our focus in how do we deal with not only losing our crop, but as you can see, we've got a lot of residue here that we're going to have to get rid of," says Walton.

With diesel well-in-excess of 2 dollars a gallon, they have to get the damaged crop out and prepare the field to replant a different crop.

But wheat isn't the only crop that suffered damage. Many corn fields that were planted early aren't in great shape either.

"Initially we felt like a lot of it would recover, but there's a lot of that's going to have to be replanted, depending on 40 to 80 percent depending on who you talk to, so that's very expensive," says Culp.

Many of the wheat fields are beginning to turn colors, getting a brown, yellowish tint on top and although farmers say insurance and possible federal assistance will help cover the damages, they'll still be lucky to break even.

"It can help them recover or maybe stay in business, but the problem is some people had such serious losses that they may not be enough," says Culp.

"Rather than some assistance that would be grant type money, it's low interest loans and that type thing, well most of the farmers, we don't want another loan," says Walton.

Governor Beebe says the disaster proclamation will support efforts to apply for assistance from the federal government for farmers who suffered crop damage during the cold snap.