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Farmers eligible for emergency loans for storm damage

MONTPELIER, Vt. --Farmers who suffered damages during the Valentine's Day blizzard are eligible for emergency federal loans.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Services Agency has designated eight counties eligible for low-interest loans. The counties are Addison, Caledonia, Chittenden, Franklin, Lamoille, Orleans, Rutland and Washington.

The emergency loan assistance also will be available to farmers in five other counties of Bennington, Essex, Grand Isle, Orange and Windsor, Gov. Jim Douglas said in a statement.

"Losses, particular the loss of livestock and collapse of barns, associated with the Valentines Day blizzard pose very serious challenges for some of our farmers," Douglas said.

Nearly 20 barns suffered collapses in the Feb. 14 storm and between 75 and 100 animals died as a result. Some parts of Vermont got up to 3 feet of snow.

The loans may be used to restore or replace essential property; pay all or part of production costs associated with the disaster year; pay essential family living expenses; reorganize the farming operation; and refinance certain debts, according to the Farm Services Agency.

Interested farmers should contact local USDA service centers or the Farm Services Agency in Colchester. The deadline to apply is Oct. 29.