Governor Phil Bredesen has requested a federal designation of agricultural disaster for eight more counties in East and Middle Tennessee to help farmers who have suffered drought-related damages. The designation would allow farmers to apply for low-interest emergency loans to help them manage crop and livestock losses due to extreme heat and dry conditions.
In a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns, Bredesen requested the designation for Bledsoe, Cannon, DeKalb, Hamilton, Overton, Pickett, Rhea and Warren counties.
?Again, I have asked the Secretary of Agriculture to give special consideration to designating these counties as an agricultural disaster,? said Bredesen. ?Farming is a tough business made tougher by unpredictable weather conditions. It?s important that we provide assistance to those who need it because these farms are small businesses that are important to our rural economy.?
Earlier this month Bredesen requested assistance for Fentress, Franklin, McMinn, Meigs, Morgan and Scott counties. USDA is still considering Bredesen?s earlier request and is expected to make a determination within the next few days. Bredesen also promised to continue to work with Tennessee Agriculture Commissioner Ken Givens to make additional requests for other counties as needed.
Farmers in the affected areas have reported an average loss of 30 to 65 percent for major crops including corn, soybeans, hay, tobacco, nursery stock and vegetables. Many livestock farmers have been forced to supplement pastures with stored feed and hay, and others have had to find alternate watering sources as ponds and creeks have dried up in some cases.
According to the Tennessee Field Office of USDA?s National Agricultural Statistics Service, recent rainfall across the state has helped crop conditions to remain in mostly good condition. However, some dry areas still remain, especially in East Tennessee, where crop conditions range from very poor to fair. The agency?s weather and crop report for the week ending Aug. 28 listed topsoil moisture levels as very short to short in over half the state and 38 percent of pastures in very poor to poor condition.
USDA is expected to make a determination on Bredesen?s most recent request in three to four weeks as the federal agency reviews damages. Once approved, eligible farmers can apply for assistance through their local USDA Farm Service Agency office.