Drought Leads Tenn. Gov. to Ask for Disaster Declaration

July 9, 2007

Crop and livestock losses in Tennessee caused by this year’s drought has prompted the governor to ask for federal emergency farm relief for the second time this year.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has already approved assistance for Tennessee farmers affected in April by a late freeze, but Gov. Phil Bredesen said in a release last week that a 10-inch rainfall deficit in most of the state has caused added hardship.

“It’s obvious even at this early stage that crop and livestock losses will be heavy,” Bredesen said. “We want to ensure that our state’s farmers have access to all of the emergency assistance available to them to help them recover from this agricultural disaster.”

Bredesen asked for the agricultural disaster designation for all the state’s 95 counties.

The near-record drought has most affected the state’s livestock sector, where poor pasture conditions and reduced hay production has caused farmers to sell off part of their herds, state Department of Agriculture Commissioner Ken Givens said.

Hay production is down 50 percent to 80 percent, and three-fourths of the state’s pastures last week were rated in bad condition, Givens said.

Growth of soybeans and corn has also been stunted, agriculture officials said.

Before the USDA can give farmers low-interest loans or other federal assistance, officials must estimate drought-related losses on a county-by-county basis.

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