The current and ongoing drought in Massachusetts is having major impacts on the Commonwealth’s agricultural producers.  With the mission of ensuring the long-term viability of agriculture in Massachusetts, the Department continues to monitor the drought situation and work with state and federal partners to provide as many resources as possible to help farmers mitigate impacts of the drought. 

Producers are encouraged to conserve water and implement long-term water savings technologies and practices, however agricultural water use is not subject to mandatory restrictions.  Agricultural water uses include but are not limited to water used for the production of food and fiber, for maintenance of livestock, and to meet the core functions of a business (for example, irrigation by plant nurseries as necessary to maintain stock). 

Overview

On September 30, 2016, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) updated its disaster declaration to designate 12 counties as primary natural disaster areas and an additional two counties as contiguous natural disaster areas due to losses caused by the recent drought.  The disaster declaration makes farms in designated counties eligible for assistance from the USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA), including emergency loans.  Disaster declaration is based on the reporting of crop loss to the FSA and the U.S. Drought Monitor.  The counties named as primary natural disaster areas are:

Barnstable

Essex

Hampshire

Plymouth

Berkshire

Franklin

Middlesex

Suffolk

Bristol

Hampden

Norfolk

Worcester


Those counties named as contiguous natural disaster areas also qualify for natural disaster assistance and are:

Dukes

Nantucket


All counties listed above were designated natural disaster areas and are now eligible to receive low interest emergency loans (EM) from FSA.  In addition to the EM loan program, FSA has a variety of programs that can provide assistance but do not require a disaster declaration.  These programs include:

Farmers are encouraged to contact or visit their local USDA Service Centers for additional information and assistance.  Additional information is also available online at http://disaster.fsa.usda.gov

 

Additional Resources 

MDAR will administer $250,000 of grant funding through its Agricultural Environmental Enhancement Program (AEEP) for water conservation projects that help farms reduce their operational impact on the environment and better prepare for, and recover after, this years’ severe drought.  Selected proposals will be reimbursed up to $25,000 or 85% of total project costs of approved projects. 

Agricultural operations interested in applying will need to submit their Request for Response (RFR) by 4:00pm on January 6th, 2017.  For a copy of the application, visit the AEEP website or call 617-626-1739.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is a valuable resource to farmers seeking long-term conservation technologies and strategies.  Farmers are encouraged to contact or visit their NRCS Local Service Centers for assistance on long-term water management solutions.

Other Emergency Loan Programs:

Water Tanker Companies for emergency water needs.

UMass Extension 2016 Drought Information and Resources

Emergency Disaster Education Network (EDEN)

General Drought Information

Drought Information:  http://www.mass.gov/eea/drought/#cities-and-towns

Drought Management:  http://www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/dcr/water-res-protection/water-data-tracking/drought-status.html

Drought Management Task Force:  http://www.mass.gov/eea/waste-mgnt-recycling/water-resources/preserving-water-resources/partners-and-agencies/water-resources-commission/drought-management-task-force.html