Patrick-Murray Administration Secures Federal Relief for Massachusetts Farmers
"This disaster declaration will give Massachusetts farmers affected by last summer's inclement weather access to loans and other assistance they need to stay afloat," said Governor Deval Patrick. "Farmers in 13 counties are now eligible for aid thanks to Secretary Vilsack's support for our farmers during last year's difficult growing season."
"Through this federal relief, Massachusetts farmers will receive needed assistance and support during a very critical time as they not only recover from last year, but also prepare for a new growing season," said Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray.
In October 2009, the USDA granted Governor Patrick's request for federal disaster relief for farms in Berkshire, Bristol, Essex, Franklin, Hampden, Hampshire, Middlesex, Norfolk, Plymouth and Worcester counties. These areas were declared primary natural disaster areas. Farms in Barnstable and Suffolk County, which were declared contiguous disaster areas, are eligible for USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) loan assistance. On February 1, 2010, Governor Patrick sent a letter to Secretary Vilsack requesting the inclusion of Dukes and Nantucket counties as primary disaster areas.
With the USDA's naming of Dukes and Nantucket Counties as primary disaster areas, farmers in those regions are also now eligible for low-interest loans and other disaster relief including supplemental revenue assistance from the FSA, provided that individual farms meet eligibility requirements. 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.
"On the eve of the growing season, this aid will come as welcome support to our farmers as they recover from the devastating effects of last summer's rains and storms," said Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Ian Bowles.
"Farmers on the Vineyard and Nantucket are still reeling from last summer's devastating rain and unseasonably cool temperatures and who knows what they'll face this year. Massachusetts farmers depend on successful corn, potato, and tomato crops, especially in lousy economic times across the board. To get back on their feet, they need relief right away and this disaster declaration means a lifeline they can take to the bank. I'm grateful to Secretary Vilsack for granting the state's request and helping us get assistance to those who need it most," said Senator John Kerry.
"During these difficult economic times, I'm pleased the USDA has made federal assistance available for farmers on Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard," said Congressman William Delahunt. "This designation and subsequent assistance will help farmers who have suffered losses caused by last season's rains and flooding get back on their feet."
Excessively wet and cool weather in May, June, and July 2009 had a negative impact on growing conditions and production levels of many of the state's major crops, including yellow corn, strawberries, tobacco, potatoes and tomatoes. June 2009 was the second gloomiest June on record in Massachusetts since 1885, according to the Blue Hills Observatory in Canton.
The cool and wet conditions created an ideal environment for destructive pathogens such as early blight, Septoria and late blight. Agricultural producers in Dukes and Nantucket counties reported that more than 80 percent of their tomato crop was destroyed. Heavy hail in Berkshire and Franklin County and flooding in Barnstable, Bristol, Essex, Middlesex and Norfolk also harmed crops. The state's farms saw losses ranging from 30 percent to 100 percent because of persistent inclement weather or disease.
"Agriculture is a significant facet of our economy in that our producers and growers support farming jobs and other sustainable industries including clean energy," said DAR Commissioner Scott Soares. "This aid will help these farmers rebound from last year's losses so that they may continue their work to maintain their beautiful working landscapes across Massachusetts."
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 - the 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 MDAR's website at www.mass.gov/agr, and/or follow at twitter.com/mdarcommish