OPINION: Drought Declaration For Farmers Is Essential First Step - Southern Maryland Headline News

OPINION: Drought Declaration For Farmers Is Essential First Step

By Maryland Senator Roy Dyson

Everywhere you go in Southern Maryland; it's hard to see much green grass because of the recent drought we've been encountering. No rain might be good for beachgoers and people hosting barbeques, but it isn't good for our farmers.

On July 26, Governor O'Malley made a request for Federal Disaster Relief for our farmers saying 30 to 60 percent of Maryland crops have been destroyed. I've venture to say those numbers are much higher here in Southern Maryland. Actually, our area has suffered the biggest drought in the state.

According to reports, 97 percent of Maryland has had abnormally dry conditions while only three percent has been deemed normal.

While I applaud the governor's request for low interest loans I worry that farmers will take on more debt than they need. I fear they will also be forced to go through too much bureaucracy, throw up their hands and give up.

I plan to ask our federal delegation to push for actual monetary relief for our farmer instead of just low interest loans.

In the past, I have written about the fact that the Incentives for Agriculture Task Force of which I am the Senate Chair, is doing an outstanding job addressing the tax needs of our farmers. How much debt can a farmer, especially a young one, hold and still survive?

When we meet again on August 28 at Salisbury University, I plan to address this topic in depth. Who better to address this issue than farmers and experts in agriculture?

For now, our farmers do have resources to turn to for help, assistance or any questions they may have.

The Farm Service Agency (FSA) administers and manages farm commodity, credit, conservation, disaster and loan programs as laid out by Congress through a network of federal, state and county offices.

These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of the agricultural industry and to help farmers adjust production to meet demand. Economically, the desired result of these programs is a steady price range for agricultural commodities for both farmers and consumers.

We have 23 counties in Maryland and there are 21 county officers to serve farmers. In order to reach the Maryland State FSA Office - which is located in Annapolis - you can call the Annapolis office at (443) 482-2760.

The local St. Mary's Farm Service Agency office contact number is (301) 475-8431 or you can write to them at: P.O. Box 268; Leonardtown, MD 20650. The Calvert County Farm Service Agency's number is (410) 535-1790, mailing address is P.O. Box 589; Prince Frederick, MD 20678-0589 and the Charles County Farm Service Agency office's number is (301) 934-9588 or P.O. Box 2685.

I am proud of my record over the years advocating for our agricultural community and will continue to fight for them. Please do not hesitate to contact me with your concerns immediately if you are a farmer and run into bureaucratic red-tape as you for apply for these loans at (301) 994-2826, by e-mail at Roy.Dyson (at) senate.state.md.us or by mail at P.O. Box 229, Great Mills, MD 20634.

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