Ky. Farmers Hurt By April Freeze Can Seek Emergency Assistance

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky farmer Don Halcomb's hopes for a good wheat harvest were snuffed out by a spring freeze that ruined nearly half his crop.

Now Halcomb and other farmers can seek low-interest emergency loans to help offset crop losses from early April when temperatures plunged into the upper teens to low 20s.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture notified Kentucky officials Wednesday that farmers across the state can apply for the assistance. USDA determined that 118 of the state's 120 counties suffered enough production losses to warrant a disaster declaration by Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns; the other two counties are eligible as adjacent counties.

State officials estimate that the freeze inflicted more than $80 million in crop losses statewide, hitting winter wheat, peach, apple and grape crops the hardest.

U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the assistance will help affected farmers "pay their essential farm and living expenses." Gov. Ernie Fletcher had requested a statewide disaster designation in mid-April. Farmers interested in applying for the assistance should contact their local Farm Service Agency office, according to McConnell's office.

The cold spell that hit Kentucky from April 5 to April 10 followed a stretch of unseasonably warm weather that accelerated the growth of many crops.

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