Drought disaster declaration includes us
by Matt Shinall
Sep 12, 2011 | 1523 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack declared Thursday 150 Georgia counties -- including Bartow -- as disaster areas due to drought conditions and extreme heat.

Gov. Nathan Deal requested the declaration for the number of crop losses as a result of extreme weather conditions enabling farmers to apply for emergency loan assistance.

"I am grateful for Secretary Vilsack's timely response on this important request for our state," Deal said. "With this designation, farmers and their businesses will qualify for much-needed relief. It is my hope that this aid will relieve some of the burden this drought has caused the No. 1 industry in our state."

All but nine of Georgia's 159 counties were included in the declaration as the U.S. Department of Agriculture drought monitor program edges over most of the state. Much of north metro-Atlanta is within the 'abnormally dry' zone. The National Weather Service recorded Thursday in Atlanta a deficit of 8.44 inches from normal rainfall levels over the past 365 days.

Locally, row crop farmers may have seen some affects from the dry weather but the drought may wind up taking its toll in coming months.

"It's still very early in the year to make these calls but the month of August was tough for local farmers, especially row crops and forage crops," said Bartow County Extension Coordinator Paul Pugliese, adding some local farmers have had to begin feeding hay abnormally early. "That indirectly cuts into their bottom line because that's going to cost them more to keep those animals alive and it also cuts into their hay production and storage which they rely on to keep those cows alive during the winter because they're already using those bales."

Farmers of row crops, sod and trees employing irrigation systems will see an impact from this year's drought in the form of higher water costs.

Likewise, the drought may have ripple affects on hobby farms and recreational land owners who will not be able to take advantage of the disaster declaration.

"Anybody that has pasture horses and that kind of thing, for recreation, it impacts them too because they're having to spend more money to feed those animals throughout the year," Pugliese said.

Farmers affected by the severe weather experienced in the state have eight months to apply for emergency loan assistance. Producers within the disaster declaration area are eligible for Farm Service Agency emergency loans and Supplemental Revenue Assistance Program emergency loans.

For more information, visit www.fsa.usda.gov or www.fema.gov.