Gov. Phil Bredesen’s request for federal farm assistance for all 95 counties in Tennessee received approval today from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Bredesen made the request April 11 after record low temperatures severely damaged crops across the state and Southeast.
“I’m pleased USDA has granted this request and recognizes that many of our farmers are struggling to recover from the devastating effects of the spring freeze,” said Bredesen. “We want to make sure that everyone who wants to stay in the business of farming has a chance to do so with the assistance of this designation.”
The decision makes qualified farm operators in designated areas eligible for low-interest emergency loans from USDA’s Farm Service Agency.
In early April, record low temperatures devastated many of the state’s crops including fruits and vegetables, nursery products and winter wheat. The hard freeze also stunted hay production and pasture development for livestock producers.
An early estimate of the damage to the winter wheat crop was a 50 percent decline in expected yields compared to last year’s harvest. Based on projected total production of the crop, the loss is estimated to cost Tennessee farmers more than $22 million. Damages to fruit and nursery crops are also estimated to be in the millions of dollars based on reported losses ranging from 50 percent to 90 percent in some areas.
“Tennessee farmers have been hit twice already this year with the spring freeze and now with the severe drought that has gripped much of the Southeast,” said state Agriculture Commissioner Ken Givens. “We’re watching the situation very closely and will be prepared to act quickly on recommending any other disaster designations due to drought as the impact to this growing season is fully realized.”
According to the Tennessee Field Office of USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, crops and pastures have been greatly stressed from moderate to extreme drought conditions experienced across the state in recent weeks.
Livestock producers have begun feeding hay and using alternate watering sources much earlier than usual. Although most crops remain in fair to good condition, hay fields and pastures are rated mostly poor to fair.
Source: Office of the Governor of Tennessee
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