Heat damage

White drupelets on late season raspberries are an indication of sun damage from last year's heat wave. A new state program offers bridge loans to help farmers until federal assistance arrives.

SALEM — Oregon farmers have until June 3 to apply for bridge financing from the state Department of Agriculture to help cover damage sustained because of natural disasters in 2021.

The newly established Oregon Disaster Assistance Program provides $40 million in forgivable loans to keep agricultural producers solvent while they wait for federal disaster relief through the USDA Farm Service Agency.

State lawmakers approved funding for the program during a special session in December as part of a larger drought relief package. Many farms and ranches endured significant crop losses last year from extreme heat, drought, wildfires and a major ice storm that hit the Willamette Valley.

In February, older hazelnut orchards buckled under the weight of as ice storm that caused severe damage, in some cases splitting whole trees down to the trunk.

In June, an intense heat wave with temperatures as high as 117 degrees caused an estimated $50 million in damage to the $1.2 billion nursery industry and wiped out about half of all blackberries and raspberries.

The FSA offers a suite of disaster programs. The Oregon Disaster Assistance Program is intended to help producers pay their bills while they wait for federal aid to arrive. 

The application period opened May 9, and funds are administered by Umpqua Bank, Columbia Bank, Bank of Eastern Oregon and Old West Federal Credit Union.

Program loans are calculated based on lost farm income. Tax returns from 2017 to 2019 are used to calculate a three-year baseline for the operation, which is then compared to 2021 farm income to determine losses due to natural disasters. 

Loans are capped at $125,000, or 90% of the three-year baseline income.

However, farmers that meet the USDA definition of historically underserved producers — or those who generated less than $350,000 in gross income — may qualify for a maximum loan of $150,000, or 95% of the three-year baseline. 

New farms can use data from the National Agricultural Statistics Service to determine their baseline income if they were not in operation before last year. 

For more information about the program, including a list of frequently asked questions, visit the ODA website at www.oregon.gov/oda or contact program manager Alan Hanson at 503-949-2993.

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