County receives drought designation

Affected farmers may qualify for low-interest loans

The U.S. Department of Agriculture designated Montezuma County a primary natural disaster area on July 2.

Counties receive the designation after experiencing severe drought for eight consecutive weeks. Most of Montezuma County is experiencing moderate to severe drought. Droughts are monitored by the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Archuleta, Dolores, and La Plata counties also received the designation.

June is generally the driest month of the year for the region, said Jim Andrus, a local meteorologist.

The average rainfall for June is 0.43 inches, but this year, the area received only a trace of rain in June, he said.

However, June was a relatively moderate month for heat. The month saw 25 days with highs in the 80s, Andrus said.

The dry spell broke briefly over the holiday, with 0.2 inches falling over the weekend, according to the National Weather Service. Most of the rain fell on July 4 and 5. Areas southwest of Cortez received a bit more, with 0.23 inches of rain reported over the weekend.

The area is not expected to get enough moisture to break the drought in the next two months, said Jim Daniels, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

But in the next few months, the weather service is calling for a better- than-usual chance of rain.

"You may see some drought relief," he said.

The expected rainfall will not "erase" current conditions, he said.

As a result of the USDA drought designation, farmers will be eligible for low-interest emergency loans from USDA's Farm Service Agency, provided eligibility requirements are met. Farmers have eight months beginning July 2 to apply for loans to help cover part of their actual losses. The Farm Service Agency will consider each loan application on its own merits, taking into account the extent of losses, security available and repayment ability, the USDA said in a written statement.

Small business may also be eligible for low-interest emergency loans because the of the drought.

Nonfarm businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in aquaculture and most private, nonprofit organizations of any size may qualify for economic injury disaster loans of up to $2 million. These funds are intended to help meet financial obligations and operating expenses, which could have been met had the disaster not occurred, the Small Business Administration announced in a written statement.

Eligibility for these loans is based only on the financial impact and not on actual property damage. The loans have an interest rate of 4 percent for businesses and 2.625 percent for private, nonprofit organizations, the statement said.

Small-business applicants may apply online using the electronic loan application at