For Immediate Release - January 26, 2011

Patrick-Murray Administration Secures Federal Relief for Massachusetts Farmers in Five Counties

BOSTON - January 25, 2011 - Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Richard K. Sullivan Jr. today announced that United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Thomas Vilsack has granted the Commonwealth's request for federal disaster relief in five Massachusetts counties that suffered agricultural production losses due to unseasonably hot, dry weather last summer and fall.

Farms in Barnstable and Bristol counties, which were declared primary natural disaster areas, are now eligible for loans and other assistance from the United States Farm Services Agency (FSA), provided that individual farms meet eligibility requirements. In addition, farms in Dukes, Norfolk and Plymouth Counties, which were declared a contiguous disaster area, are also eligible for loan assistance.

"Thanks to Secretary Vilsack for granting this disaster declaration, which will give Massachusetts farmers affected by unseasonably hot and dry weather last year access to loans and other assistance they need to remain viable," said Governor Deval Patrick.

Governor Patrick sent a letter on January 3, 2011 to Secretary Vilsack requesting the disaster designation.

"Farmers across the state will now have access to resources that will help them recover from the damaging effects of the excessive heat that led to significant crop damage," said Secretary Sullivan.

Between June 1, 2010 and October 15, 2010, farmers in Barnstable and Bristol counties had crop losses due to excessive heat and scalding, which occurs when crops are over exposed to the sun causing discoloration and blistering.

According to the National Weather Service, 2010 was the third warmest summer on record with 25 days with 90 degree plus temperatures into September (normal is 11 days). The cranberry crops were the most significantly affected. Farms predicted seasonal production decreases of at least 30 percent. The Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR) continues to work with the University of Massachusetts Amherst and with USDA officials to monitor the amount of damage to crop output this season. Actual crop loss assessments are expected later this year.

"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 season's excessively hot conditions," said DAR Commissioner Scott Soares.

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.