The Maui News - Maui County was designated last week as a primary natural disaster area by the U.S. Department of Agriculture because of agricultural losses caused by an ongoing drought.
The department is offering help to farmers and ranchers.
U.S. DOA Secretary Tom Vilsack said, in announcing the disaster designation, "President Obama and I realize that during this time of disaster, federal assistance will be needed until conditions improve and farmers strive to recover from their losses."
Last month, 'Ulupalakua Ranch President Sumner Erdman said that economic losses from the dry conditions over several years amounted to "hundreds of thousands of dollars." The ranch has been forced to sell cattle to deal with the drought and the scarce amount of grass available, he said.
The National Weather Service in Honolulu predicted last month that Maui would see less rain in the normally dry summer months.
The disaster designation makes all qualified farm operators on the islands of Maui, Molokai and Lana'i eligible for low-interest emergency loans from USDA's Farm Service Agency. Farmers and ranchers have eight months from the date of the declaration to apply for loans to help cover part of their losses.
The agency will consider each loan application on its own merits, taking into account the extent of losses, security available and repayment ability.
Interested farmers and ranchers may contact Kahului's USDA Service Center at 871-5500, ext. 2, for more information on eligibility requirements and application procedures for emergency loans and other programs. Information also is available at disaster.fsa.usda.gov.