The drought disaster continues to grow.

Four additional Upstate counties have been designated as natural disaster areas by the federal government as a result of this summer’s drought. Jefferson, Lewis, Herkimer, and St. Lawrence counties have been added due to their reported crop losses, bringing the total number of counties in New York State severely impacted by the extreme dry conditions to 51.

The disaster declaration allows eligible farmers to access assistance, including emergency loans, from the United States Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency.

Disaster declaration is based on reporting of crop loss to the federal Farm Service Agency and a D3 designation by the U.S. Drought Monitor. At the end of August, the federal government had declared 15 counties, including Yates, as primary natural disaster areas and an additional nine counties as contiguous disaster counties as a result of the drought conditions.

The primary and contiguous counties included under this designation are:

Finger Lakes: Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Orleans, Seneca, Wayne, Wyoming, Yates

Southern Tier Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Delaware, Schuyler, Steuben, Tioga,Tompkins

Central New York: Cayuga, Cortland, Onondaga, Oswego, Madison

Western New York: Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Niagara

North Country: Essex, Jefferson, Hamilton, Lewis, St. Lawrence

Mohawk Valley Fulton, Herkimer, Montgomery, Oneida, Otsego, Schoharie

Capital Region: Albany, Columbia, Greene, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Warren,Washington

Hudson Valley: Dutchess, Putnam, Westchester

Long Island: Nassau, Suffolk

In September, State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball and state lawmakers with ag industry leaders toured a number of dairy, vegetable, Christmas tree farms, and vineyards with representatives from the New York Farm Bureau, Cornell Cooperative Extension, and the regional FSA offices, along with other state leaders. Tours were conducted in the North Country, Central New York, Southern Tier, Finger Lakes and Western New York regions. Losses are estimated to range from 30 to 60 percent, depending on the crop, and farmers are challenged with additional costs associated with irrigation and hauling water.

Ball said, “I saw firsthand how widespread and devastating the drought has been on farms. We haven’t seen conditions this severe in decades and it is clear our producers and growers will see crop loss of up to 50 and 60 percent in some regions. Forage, hay, corn, and grain crops to feed animals over the winter are affected, and farmers are facing additional costs from having to irrigate and haul water, so it’s critical that these counties be declared as disaster areas so they can apply for the assistance they may need. We will continue to work with our partners in monitoring the drought situation and its effect on New York farms in these and our remaining counties across the State.”

A disaster designation makes farm operators in primary counties and those counties contiguous eligible to be considered for emergency loans from the FSA, provided eligibility requirements are met. Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of the disaster declaration to apply for emergency loans. The Farm Service Agency considers each emergency loan application based on the extent of production losses on the farm, and the security and repayment ability of the operator.

Resources

The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets has issued a new resource guide to connect farmers with assistance programs from federal, state and local agencies. www.agriculture.ny.gov/Drought_Resource_Guide.pdf

There are also other resources available for farmers affected by the drought through Cornell Cooperative Extension (http://cce.cornell.edu), the Cornell EDEN program (http://eden.cce.cornell.edu/disasters/Pages/Drought.aspx), and NY FarmNet (http://www.nyfarmnet.org) to assist with forage management and programs and projects to better prepare the state for future drought.

The Dept. of Ag & Markets, along with its Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Farm Bureau, Cornell Cooperative Extension, and the Cornell EDEN program, recommend that farmers affected by the drought should continue to document their conditions with pictures and video, and any losses. Farmers can also file a CCC-576 (Notice of Loss) with their local USDA Farm Service Agency.