Fed Ag Loans Not Seen As Huge Help In Worcester

SNOW HILL — Severe drought conditions have opened up federal funding for Delaware, in the form of Small Business Association (SBA) economic injury disaster loans, to a number of Maryland counties, including Worcester. Unfortunately, some in the county’s agricultural sector don’t expect the loans to help at this point.

“Most of the time, with these types of loans, you have to be turned down by three lenders … if you’re that bad off, then most likely, you’re not going to make it,” County Commissioner Virgil Shockley said.

While Maryland itself hasn’t been classified as a drought area this summer, much of the American southeast has as well as the state of Delaware. This has allowed Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s, Wicomico and Worcester counties to also qualify for the Small Business Association loans.

“These counties are eligible because they are contiguous to one or more primary counties in Delaware,” said Frank Skaggs, director of SBA’s Field Operations Center East in Atlanta.  “The Small Business Administration recognizes that disasters do not usually stop at county or state lines. For that reason, counties adjacent to primary counties named in the declaration are included.”

Shockley, a farmer who also represents the Snow Hill district, one of the most agriculturally active in Worcester, didn’t view the loans as a fix-all. He stressed that the loans, which can reach up to $2 million, have terms up to 30 years and only have interest rates of 3 percent for non-profits and 4 percent for small businesses, are too little, too late for most farmers that actually need them.

“To qualify for these loans, you’d have to have been turned down,” he reiterated.

Shockley added that he and the majority of his constituents involved in agriculture usually already pay for crop insurance, which cuts down on profits in good years but helps farmers stay afloat in years when crop yields aren’t met.

“It is a damn good idea to pay the extra $10 an acre and cover yourself,” said Shockley.

Since Worcester has been struggling with crops for the last decade, according to Shockley, almost all farmers in the county take advantage of crop insurance.

“The last year we had a normal year was 2002,” he said. “I haven’t seen anything this bad in years … [corn] literally didn’t pollenate.”

Shockley did admit that the SBA loans could be a “safety net” in desperate cases but was doubtful more than a few farmers in his district will apply.