7 CFR § 759.5 - Secretarial disaster area determination and notification process.
(a) U.S. Drought Monitor. With respect to drought and without requiring an LAR:
(1) If any portion of a county is physically located in an area with a Drought Monitor Intensity Classification value of D3 (drought-extreme) or higher during any part of the growing season of the crops affected by the disaster in the county, then the county will be designated a disaster area by the Secretary.
(2) If any portion of a county meets the threshold Drought Monitor Intensity Classification value of D2 (drought-severe) for at least 8 consecutive weeks during the growing season of affected crops, then the county will be designated a disaster area by the Secretary.
(b) CEB and SEB recommendations. In instances where counties have been impacted by a disaster but the county has not been designated a disaster area under the provisions of paragraph (a) of this section, CEB will make a disaster designation recommendation request to SEB when a disaster has resulted in severe production losses. The determination of the sufficiency of the production losses will be governed by the provisions in paragraph (c) of this section. The CEB may make such efforts as are needed to identify counties that have been impacted and had such production losses. A farmer, Indian Tribal Council, or local governing body may initiate the process by reporting production losses or drought conditions to CEB and suggesting that there be a recommendation in favor of designating a county as a disaster area. Recommendations by a CEB in favor of a disaster designation by a CEB under this paragraph are subject to the following:
(1) A LAR is required as part of a CEB disaster designation request. CEB will submit a disaster designation request with a LAR to SEB for review and recommendation for approval by the Secretary. CEB's written request and SEB recommendation must be submitted within three months of the last day of the occurrence of a natural disaster.
(2) If SEB determines a qualifying natural disaster and loss have occurred, SEB will forward the recommendation to the Administrator. The natural disaster may include drought conditions that were not sufficiently severe to meet the criteria in paragraph (a) of this section. Since the U.S. Drought Monitor tracks only drought conditions, not specifically agricultural losses resulting from those conditions, it is possible for a drought that does not meet the criteria in paragraph (a) of this section to result in production losses that constitute a natural disaster.
(3) The Secretary or the Secretary's designee will make disaster area determinations. The Secretary may delegate the authority to the SED. In such case, the SED will act on behalf of the Secretary, subject to review by DAFP as may be appropriate and consistent with the delegation. The delegation of authority to the SED may be revoked by the authority making that delegation or by other authorized person. In all cases, DAFP may reverse any SED determination made in accordance with this section unless the delegation to the SED specifies that such review is not allowed.
(c) Eligible production losses. For purposes of making determinations under paragraph (b) of this section, in order for an area to be declared a disaster area under paragraph (b) of this section based on production losses, the county must have had production losses of 30 percent of at least one crop in the county as the result of a natural disaster.
(d) Discretionary exception to production losses for designating a county as a disaster county. For purposes of the EM program only, unless otherwise specified in the designation, a county may be designated by DAFP as a designated disaster county even though the conditions specified in paragraphs (a) through (c) of this section are not present so long as the disaster has otherwise produced such significant production losses, or other such extenuating circumstances so as to justify, in the opinion of the Secretary, the designation of a county as a disaster area. In making this determination, the Secretary may consider all relevant factors including such factors as the nature and extent of production losses; the number of farmers who have sustained qualifying production losses; the number of farmers that other lenders in the county indicate they will not be in position to provide emergency financing; whether the losses will cause undue hardship to a certain segment of farmers in the county; whether damage to particular crops has resulted in undue hardship; whether other Federal or State benefit programs, which are being made available due to the same disaster, will consequently lessen undue hardship and the demand for EM; and any other factors considered relevant.