Emergency loans make up only a small percentage of total farm loans distributed each year, Gieseke said.
So far this year, for example, the Farm Service Agency has handed out 1,234 loans in Missouri, totaling over $184 million. Of those loans, six were emergency loans made available in natural disaster areas, totaling $265,290.
At the request of Gov. Jay Nixon, local committees called county emergency boards meet and produce an estimate of agricultural losses due to proposed natural disasters.
"They meet with some producers, take a tour of the county sometimes and see what they can see," Gieseke said. "It's very unscientific."
Boone County's emergency board consists of five members: Kim Viers, director of the Farm Service Agency in Boone County; Robert Hagedorn, a district conservationist for the Natural Resource Conservation Service; and three local farmers from different regions in the county who make up the Boone County Farm Service Agency Committee, Carol Riedel (northeast), David Grant (east-central) and Troy Douglas (northwest).
Based on its evaluations, the board comes up with an estimate of crop yield losses for Boone County.
Grant said farmers on the board evaluate the condition of the crops and grasses in their area, talk to other producers and try to keep in mind rainfall and temperature data.
"In the end, we give an opinion, really," he said.
The resulting damage estimates are sent to a state emergency board, which reviews them and sends them to the national Farm Service Agency in Washington, D.C. After another review, they are signed by Vilsack or the president.
Grant said most producers in the area would qualify for the required 30 percent crop loss this year, particularly those growing corn.
"Yeah, I'd feel pretty confident that in many places we've had as much as 40 to 50 percent decrease in corn production," he said. He estimated that his yields are down more than 30 percent.
But like many agricultural producers in the county, he has crop insurance and won't be applying for any emergency loans.
The low-interest nature of the emergency loans doesn't impress him.
"After all," he said, "a loan is still a loan," and producers will still be taking on debt.
Gieseke said the 3.75 percent interest rate of emergency loans isn't much lower than many other loans available to farmers through other Farm Service Agency programs or through private, local creditors.
A rising number of farmers covered by crop insurance has weakened the need for emergency loans.