USDA Declares Primary Natural Disaster Areas for 14 Massachusetts Counties
Wednesday, September 28, 2016
Qualified Farms are Eligible for Financial Assistance
Due to ongoing drought conditions and their effect on Massachusetts’ agricultural industry, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has recently designated eleven Commonwealth counties and three contiguous counties as primary natural disaster areas. All qualified farm operators within the designated counties (Barnstable; Bristol; Essex; Franklin; Hampden; Hampshire; Middlesex; Norfolk; Plymouth; Suffolk; and Worchester) and the three contiguous disaster counties (Berkshire; Dukes; and Nantucket) are eligible for low interest emergency (EM) loans provided by the USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA).
“Massachusetts’ agricultural sector, which includes many hardworking, family-owned farms, is an important component of the state’s economy, and it is essential that we work together to provide farmers with the assistance needed during this difficult time,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Coupled with the state’s Emergency Drought Loan Fund, the USDA’s Emergency Loans will help ease the adverse effects caused by this year’s drought conditions.”
“Massachusetts has always maintained a vibrant agricultural industry providing fresh products bought and sold around the world,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “By providing financial assistance, hardworking farms will be able to recover quicker from the effects caused by this year’s drought, which will directly benefit regional economies.”
“The Baker-Polito Administration continues to work with state, federal and agricultural stakeholders to address the adverse effect drought conditions are having on the Commonwealth’s agricultural industry,” said Energy and Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton. “As ongoing drought conditions persist, residents in all corners of the state are strongly encouraged to support the agricultural community by shopping local for food products to help provide relief for farmers who have faced negative impacts associated with this period of prolonged dry weather.”
In order to receive an EM loan from the USDA’s Farm Service Agency, farmers in eligible counties must apply within eight months from the date of the declaration, which was on September 21, 2016. Importantly, the EM loans will be provided to mitigate farm operations losses. Farmers in the designated counties are urged to contact their local FSA county offices for additional information such as eligibility requirements and application procedures regarding the EM loan program.
The USDA’s most recent declaration comes on the heels of a separate primary natural disaster areas announcement the federal department made earlier this week for several Massachusetts counties due to crop losses, particularly of tree fruits like peaches, caused by frost and freeze occurring between February and May. The disaster designation also made farms in designated counties eligible for assistance from the Farm Service Agency (FSA), including emergency loans.
“As we continue to work with our federal partners to provide assistance to farms, nurseries and related businesses, residents can also help them while they help themselves,” said Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources Commissioner John Lebeaux. “Purchasing nutritious, locally grow food is a healthy choice; enjoying the beauty of locally grown nursery stock and greenhouse plants in your yard feeds the spirit. Our farmers and growers are working extra hard to bring top quality product to market.”
“President Obama and Secretary Vilsack are committed to ensuring agriculture remains a bright spot in the Commonwealth’s economy by working with our state and local partners to help sustain Massachusetts farmers through these difficult times,” said Jon Niedzielski, Massachusetts State Director Executive Director, USDA - Farm Service Agency. “The USDA Farm Service Agency has a variety of programs, in addition to emergency loans, to help eligible farmers recover from adversity and we encourage producers to contact their local county office to find out more.”
Recently, the Baker-Polito Administration announced the launch of the Massachusetts Drought Emergency Loan Fund. The program provides micro-loans to family farms and other small businesses affected by prolonged drought conditions within Massachusetts.