MAUI (Hawaii News Now) - The United States Department of Agriculture has designated Maui County as a Primary Disaster Area because of the drought that's plagued the Valley Isle and neighboring islands for years.
The declaration means hundreds of farmers across Maui County will be eligible to apply for emergency loans from the federal Farm Service Agency to help offset losses compounded by drought and dry weather.
"It also could help our crop growers. Recently we had some heavy wind damage. Those losses were major for our veg crops," Maui Farm Bureau executive director Warren Watanabe said.
Some of the funds will be important to help extend loan payments that are due.
The feds primary disaster designation means many ranchers can also seek assistance.
"Whatever we can get we can pay for that next load of feed, or pay for minerals and the things that we need to keep these cattle going," said Kaupo Ranch manager Bobby Ferreira. "i hope that 75, 80 percent of the ranchers would go in and apply."
The Farm Service Agency will consider each loan application on its own merits, including the ability to repay the loan and how much a farmer or rancher lost.
"The farmers and ranchers need to keep their records to verify their losses," Watanabe said.
"Any help that we can get in these hard times is greatly appreciated," Ferreira said.
Maui has been in drought for years. But recent rains have helped the island. A few days ago the county ended a water shortage declaration for upcountry Maui
"What really matters is how much rain falls in the watershed areas to fill our reservoirs," Watanabe said. "Farming and ranching is not an easy business to be in. Any financial help they can get it's worthwhile."
Farmers and ranchers have the next eight months to get their assistance applications in to the USDA.