ST. PAUL — Drought conditions have reached the level in areas of Minnesota to trigger emergency funding for affected farmers.

This week the Minnesota Department of Agriculture's Rural Finance Authority Board determined that an emergency exists in Minnesota due to drought, which makes zero-interest loans available immediately for Minnesota farmers whose operations are suffering from lack of rain.

“The RFA board members voted unanimously to make these disaster recovery funds available because of current drought conditions,” said Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen in a news release. “This zero-interest loan program is especially important for farmers whose crops and livestock are suffering from the drought and were not insured or were underinsured.”

The Disaster Recovery Loan Program can be used to help cover lost revenue or expenses not covered by insurance, according to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. The funds can be used to help clean up, repair or replace farm buildings; repair or replace septic and water systems; replace seed, fertilizer (or other cropping inputs), feed, or livestock and poultry.

Farmers in Minnesota counties considered to be in severe drought or worse (D2+ on the U.S. Drought Monitor’s designation) and in contiguous counties are eligible to apply.

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Eligible farmers must have received at least 50% of their annual gross income from farming for the past three years. Farmers that qualify will work through their banks to secure the loans from the Rural Finance Authority. Interest rates on the Rural Finance Authority portion of the loan are currently set at 0.0%.

More information on the Disaster Recovery Loan program is on the Minnesota Department of Agriculture website.