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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 1:27 p.m., Friday, March 24, 2006

State seeks emergency declaration for farmers

Advertiser Staff

Gov. Linda Lingle today asked the federal government for a disaster declaration for Kaua'i and O'ahu due to weather-related crop damage, a news release said.

The request, sent to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns, would make Hawai'i farmers eligible for federal low-interest loans to help recover from damage that occurred from Feb. 20 to March 26.

"It is critically important that our farmers on Kaua'i, Ni'ihau and O'ahu get the help they need today," Lingle said in a statement. "This extended period of heavy rain has decimated many crops to the point where it will take several months or more for most farmers to recover."

"The quicker we start the process for a federal disaster declaration, the faster our farmers can get their fields back into production," said Sandra Lee Kunimoto, chairperson of the Hawai'i Board of Agriculture. "The state is already processing emergency low-interest loans for affected farmers and the disaster declaration will bring additional resources and aid."

The request to the secretary was made based on preliminary data that has been collected by state and federal agriculture officials that meet the criteria of at least 30 percent crop losses in each county.

Kaua'i residents and farmers may seek assistance at the following Disaster Assistance & Recovery Centers:

Today: Kilauea Neighborhood Center, 10 a.m. 4:00 p.m.

Tomorrow: Kalaheo Neighborhood Center , 10 a.m. 4 p.m.

For more information on state agricultural loans, call the Agricultural Loan Division on O'ahu at 973-9460 or call the Hawai'i Department of Agriculture's Kaua'i office at 274-3069.

Information is also available on the division's Web page: http://www.hawaiiag.org/hdoa/agl_qfarm.htm.