USDA grants request for Tennessee drought aid

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has granted Governor Phil Bredesen’s request for federal farm assistance for all 95 Tennessee counties due to drought.

Bredesen made the request July 5 as a result of extreme drought conditions across the state that have plagued Tennessee farmers since the beginning of the growing season.

“I appreciate USDA’s quick response to my request, and we want to continue doing everything we can to help Tennessee farmers get through this unusually tough year,” said Bredesen. “This designation will be important to many farmers who need assistance to continue farming, however, more help is needed. I hope that Congress will consider and approve additional assistance due to the pervasive nature of this disaster not only in Tennessee, but across the Southeast.”

The decision makes qualified farm operators in designated areas eligible for low-interest emergency loans from USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA). Farmers with production losses should contact their local USDA Service Center for more information on emergency assistance, and for more information on haying and grazing opportunities on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands.

Tennessee farmers were hit hard in April with record low temperatures that devastated many of the state’s crops including fruits and vegetables, nursery products and winter wheat. Bredesen requested an agricultural designation of natural disaster due to the freeze earlier this year. That request was granted in June.

Since May, Tennessee farmers have also felt the devastating effect of rainfall deficits ranging from 9 to 15 inches across the state.

Preliminary estimates are that losses range from 30 to 70 percent in some areas of the state for major crops such as corn, wheat and soybeans. Poor pasture conditions and decreased hay production has also forced many cattle producers to reduce their herds, and to seek alternative watering sources.

“It’s hard to put a dollar figure on the damages to Tennessee farmers until harvest is complete, but it’s safe to say it means hundreds of millions of dollars in lost farm income,” said state Agriculture Commissioner Ken Givens.

“Although weather is always a risk in farming, what make this year different is the double impact of the freeze and drought on all 95 counties.”

Livestock farmers wanting more information on the availability of hay from both in-state and out-of-state sources can access the Department of Agriculture’s Tennessee Hay Directory online at or at local Farm Bureau offices.

According to the Tennessee Field Office of USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, recent thundershowers have helped improve crops and pastures, however more rainfall is needed.

For the week ending July 29, nearly 40 percent of corn, 30 percent of soybeans and 60 percent of hay and pastures were rated in poor-to-very poor condition.

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