BISMARCK (AP) - A federal disaster declaration for North Dakota opens the door for farmers statewide to tap into the new permanent disaster aid fund in the farm law Congress passed last year.
Farmers who get help might have to wait a while for a check, however, since the government will not have some necessary data until later this year.
Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer's declaration means farmers in all 53 North Dakota counties might be eligible for aid if they were hurt by bad weather during the 2008 growing season.
''It's going to be important for those who had drought, in a lot of the western part of the state, and late-season flooding in the east,'' said Lance Gaebe, an adviser to Gov. John Hoeven, who in late November asked Schafer for the disaster declaration. Schafer granted it Dec. 31.
Agriculture-related businesses in North Dakota also might be eligible for aid from the U.S. Small Business Administration under the declaration.
The aid for farmers includes emergency low-interest loans and debt restructuring, which has been available in past disaster declarations. It also includes the new farm law disaster fund, according to state and federal officials.
The permanent disaster fund is aimed at helping protect a farm's total revenue. That differs from crop insurance, which insures spot losses.
Farmers must insure their crops to be eligible for the program, however, said Dale Ihry, a program specialist in North Dakota for the federal Farm Service Agency. Crop insurance payments are part of the formula that determines payments under the farm bill disaster program.
Rules for the program are still being written. But Ihry said that with the way Congress set up the program, the government will need to know the national average price for various commodities to calculate payments.