For Immediate Release - November 18, 2011

Patrick-Murray Administration Secures Additional Federal Relief for Massachusetts Farmers

BOSTON – Friday, November 18, 2011 – The Patrick-Murray Administration today announced that United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Thomas Vilsack has granted the Commonwealth's request for federal disaster relief in four additional Massachusetts counties that suffered agricultural production losses due to damage associated with Tropical Storm Irene.

On September 16, 2011, Governor Patrick sent a letter to Secretary Vilsack requesting a disaster declaration in 13 counties of Massachusetts. Nine of those counties were approved on September 22, 2011.

Since then, the USDA has been able to gather sufficient information relative to production losses in Barnstable, Dukes, Nantucket, and Plymouth Counties to declare these as primary natural areas as a result of Tropical Storm Irene. Counties that were already eligible for loans and other assistance from the USDA Farm Services Agency (FSA) include Berkshire, Bristol, Essex, Franklin, Hampden, Hampshire, Middlesex, Norfolk, and Worcester.

In addition, farms in Suffolk County, which has now been declared a contiguous disaster area, are also eligible for loan assistance.

"I would like to thank the Obama Administration for providing addition disaster aid to Massachusetts farmers that have been affected, and continue to struggle, in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene," said Governor Patrick. 

Farms which were impacted by the storm are eligible for loans and other assistance from their local FSA office, provided that individual farms meet eligibility requirements.

"Farmers across the Commonwealth will now have access to key resources that will help them recover from the damaging effects of Hurricane Irene," said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Richard K. Sullivan Jr. “I applaud the efforts Governor Patrick and Secretary Vilsack’s efforts to support our state’s farmers.”

Between August 28 and August, 31 2011, farmers across the state experienced crop losses due to excessive rain and high winds.

"For the agricultural industry, which represents $500 million in annual revenue, this assistance saves jobs and insures continued operations for many of our farms affected by last summer’s storm," said DAR Commissioner Scott J. Soares.

“Irene's torrential rains and intense winds pounded our farms and they’re still struggling with the aftermath.   They need this help.  Every penny counts, and I’m glad to see farmers in every one of our counties will get the relief they need," said Senator John Kerry.

“The news of expanded access to federal disaster assistance is a relief to Massachusetts farmers. The impact of Hurricane Irene has been devastating, and this assistance will help our agricultural industry recover from the significant crop losses," said Senator Scott Brown.

“I believe that our federal government should have access to disaster relief funds with no strings attached,” said Congressman Bill Keating.  “These funds will remedy the devastation caused to our farmers by Tropical Storm Irene, and that is a necessary investment in our communities.  Our citizens should be able to look to the federal government in times of natural disasters, and I applaud the Department of Agriculture for awarding this relief.”

“I know that there are still families struggling to recover from Tropical Storm Irene,” Congressman Stephen F. Lynch said.  “I am pleased to see that additional funding will now be extended to all those impacted by the storm.”

“This assistance is great news for our farmers,” said Senate President Therese Murray. “Our agricultural areas took a hit during the storm, and I am happy to see that Plymouth and Barnstable counties have now been included for available relief so that our farmers can recoup losses and get production back on track.”

"I'm very pleased the Obama Administration has made these funds available to assist the Massachusetts agriculture industry in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene," said Sen. Marc R. Pacheco, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture. "I'm also pleased to see the Patrick Administration request these much needed disaster relief funds as the Agriculture industry in Massachusetts is very important to our overall economy and these funds will significantly assist with the ill effects of Irene.”

“I am thankful to the administration for recognizing how critically important agriculture is to the Commonwealth,” said Rep. Anne Gobi, House Chair of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture. “Farmers face a number of hardships and this assistance will help to ease some of the effects associated with those hardships.”

The FSA will consider each farm's application based on the extent of losses, security available and repayment ability. Local FSA offices can provide affected farmers with further information regarding available assistance.

Click here for more information about FSA disaster assistance programs.                                                                                                 

DAR's mission is to ensure the long-term viability of local agriculture in Massachusetts. Through its four divisions - Agricultural Development, Animal Health, Crop and Pest Services, and Technical Assistance - DAR strives to support, regulate and enhance the Commonwealth's agricultural community, working to promote economically and environmentally sound food safety and animal health measures, and fulfill agriculture's role in energy conservation and production. For more information, visit DAR's website at www.mass.gov/agr, and/or follow us at http://twitter.com/MDARCommish. For your gateway to locally grown products, specialty foods, and fun ag-tivities go to www.mass.gov/massgrown.

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