LA PLATA, Md. (July 26, 2007) Today, Governor Martin OMalley formally submitted a letter to the United States Department of Agriculture requesting a Secretarial Disaster Designation for all Maryland counties impacted by the severe dry weather and excessive heat during the months of June and July. According to the USDA, nearly 85 percent of the state is in "moderate" to "severe" drought, up from 37 percent a week ago. This is the third drought in Maryland since 2002, with Charles, St. Mary's and Calvert Counties among the most severely impacted.
Governor OMalley sent the letter to Secretary Mike Johanns of the U. S. Department of Agriculture.
Working with the State Farm Service Agency and the Maryland Department of Agriculture, we estimate that farmers in Maryland have lost between 30 and 60 percent of their crop, said Governor OMalley. By requesting this disaster designation, we hope to provide some relief to our local farmers, who are a vital part of Marylands economy, and we will continue to work with the Maryland Department of Agriculture and our federal delegation to help our farmers get through this drought.
Marylands farmers are having trouble paying their bills due to the drought that has covered the State over the past two months, said Roger Richardson, Secretary of the Maryland Department of Agriculture. We are working closely with both the federal government and local jurisdictions to ensure that Marylands farmers are protected during this arid growing season.
Maryland's elected federal public servants also sought federal financial help for the state. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), chair of the Maryland congressional delegation, was joined today by a bipartisan coalition of her Maryland colleagues in sending a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Mike Johanns, urging him to honor Governor Martin O'Malley's request to receive a Secretarial Disaster Designation. This designation will release federal assistance for many Maryland farmers, who will then become eligible for additional disaster relief funds.
Co-signing the letter with Senator Mikulski were colleagues Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D), House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D), Representatives Wayne T. Gilchrest (R), Albert Wynn (D), Roscoe Bartlett (R), Elijah Cummings (D), Dutch Ruppersburger (D), Chris Van Hollen (D) and John Sarbanes (D).
Since the spring of 2007, all of Marylands counties have received rainfall amounts that are well below average. Most of this shortfall has occurred during the past three months, the most critical time for the development of most summer field crops. While the Mid and Lower Eastern Shore and Southern Maryland appear to be the driest regions, data analysis from the National Drought Mitigation Center shows 97 percent of the State in at least abnormally dry conditions. Thirty-seven percent is in a moderate drought while only 3 percent appears normal.
To support Maryland farmers during this time of need, the Maryland Department of Agriculture is offering free testing of grain for the presence of aflatoxins and other toxins, which can be present under drought conditions and are poisonous to livestock.