Following a second round of Farm Service Agency loss assessment reports, Gov. Nathan Deal requested a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) secretarial disaster designation for 157 of Georgia's 159 counties due to ongoing drought and excessive heat conditions that began in April.
The governor's request follows the completion of loss assessment reports that were conducted beginning in late July.
The request is one of several steps in the process to receive a disaster designation, which makes agricultural producers in affected counties eligible for emergency loans and other assistance from the federal government.
"I would like to thank Governor Deal for his prompt action in requesting a Secretarial Disaster Designation for these counties," said Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, "and I hope a formal disaster designation will be forthcoming soon."
The only counties that did not qualify as primary counties in the request are Chattahoochee and Muscogee counties on the Alabama state line. If the request is approved by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Chattahoochee and Muscogee would qualify as contiguous disaster counties and growers in those counties would be eligible to apply for emergency loans and to sign up for other USDA programs that provide assistance to farmers suffering agricultural losses due to natural disasters.
Through Aug. 23, every county in the state was experiencing some level of drought. More than half the state's counties were experiencing extreme drought, the second-highest level of severity.
Earlier this summer, Vilsack had granted a disaster designation for 22 counties and an additional 26 counties were declared contiguous disaster areas due to drought and heat conditions. Those counties were all in the southern portion of the state and reflected crop losses early in the year as a result of drought conditions.
Deal made the request for those counties on June 3 and Vilsack issued the declaration on June 28.
The limited area of the first drought disaster declaration prompted questions on why more counties were not included. The latest request from Deal confirms the statewide distribution of damage from the drought.
Damage and losses prompting disaster designation must be due to a natural disaster and result in a 30 percent production loss of at least on crop in the county.
For more information on the secretarial disaster designation process and USDA programs available to farmers suffering agricultural losses, visit http://www.fsa.usda.gov/Internet/FSA_File/disaster09.pdf .