SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Farmers and ranchers in South Dakota could have applied for emergency loans related to a natural disaster declaration because of drought but few did, said Lacey Thorsness of the Farm Service Agency.

Sixteen counties were eligible as primary natural disaster areas for drought in an application window that closed on Feb. 25. Another 27 were eligible as contiguous counties. In another round, three counties were designated a primary natural disaster areas for drought in an application window that closed on April 11. Another eight were eligible as contiguous counties.

“Emergency loans can be used to meet various recovery needs including the replacement of essential items such as equipment or livestock, reorganization of a farming operation or the refinance of certain debts,” the USDA said in a news release.

“Emergency loans allow farmers and ranchers to borrower up to 100% of the actual production or physical losses experienced minus any disaster related compensation or insurance indemnities that are received,” Thorsness said.

“Over the past several years, activity in the emergency loan program has been low but… FSA has other options available to assist farmers/ranchers,” Thorsness said.

Those programs include the Disaster Set Aside, Primary Loan Servicing and the Direct Operating Loan, she said.

Eric Jennings, the president of the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association, said two livestock transportation programs from the USDA have been helpful in the past.

One program helps pay for the cost of transporting feed to cattle. The other helps pay the transportation costs for moving cattle to the feed, he said.

“A lot of that happened last fall,” Jennings said of moving cattle to the feed.

Cattle from the west were moved to eastern South Dakota and parts of eastern Nebraska. They spend the winter where there was available feed such as corn stubble and stalks, he said.

“It’s a lot more economical than hauling feed to the livestock,” Jennings said.