Governor to Seed Disaster Designations Due to Wheat Freeze

If USDA approves, farmers and ranchers eligible for low-interest loans.

Governor Kathleen Sebelius last week said she will seek a federal agricultural disaster designation for every county that meets the 30% crop production loss threshold because of an early April freeze that damaged wheat statewide.

With a USDA secretarial disaster declaration, farmers and ranchers will be eligible for emergency low-interest loans to cover up to 100% of actual production and physical losses.

"We're just beginning to be able to assess the impact freezing temperatures had on this year's wheat crop," Sebelius says. "Once we have a handle on the extent of that damage, we'll be in a better position to seek the disaster designations."

The State Emergency Board, which includes representatives from USDA's Farm Service Agency, K-State University Research and Extension, Kansas Agricultural Statistics and the Kansas Department of Agriculture, met last week to discuss wheat freeze damage. At that meeting, Kansas Agricultural Statistics said its May 11 crop report may be the first to begin to officially document the freezing temperature's impact on this year's crop.

"Unseasonably warm temperatures in March caused wheat to develop a little ahead of schedule, which made it more susceptible to damage when temperatures dropped into the teens across Kansas between April 4 and 10," says Secretary of Agriculture Adrian Polansky. "We know the wheat was damaged. We just need to quantify by how much."

Kansas is the nation's leading wheat producer, with records of wheat production actually predating statehood. There are indications that wheat was produced in the area as early as 1839.

On average, Kansas produces more wheat than any other state. Nearly one-fifth of all wheat grown in the United States is grown in Kansas. And, Kansas ranks first in the nation in flour milling, wheat gluten production and wheat stored.

Roughly one-third of Kansas' 63,000 farmers grow wheat. Normally, Kansas farmers produce about 400 million bushels of wheat a year, with a production value that hovers around $1 billion.

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