U.S. Dept. of Agriculture to Declare Drought Disaster Designation for Entire State - Southern Maryland Headline News

U.S. Dept. of Agriculture to Declare Drought Disaster Designation for Entire State

ANNAPOLIS (August 22, 2007) - Governor Martin O'Malley confirmed with U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns today that a drought disaster declaration for the entire state of Maryland would be formally announced later today or early tomorrow morning by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. O'Malley called Secretary Johanns earlier today for an update on Maryland's request for a drought disaster designation.

This designation, in response to Governor O'Malley's July 26, 2007 request to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a Secretarial Disaster Designation for all Maryland counties, will help provide assistance and financial relief to Maryland farmers impacted by the severe dry weather and excessive heat from June 1, and continuing through the summer months.

"This is welcome news for Maryland farmers who have been hard-hit by drought conditions this summer," said Governor O'Malley. "Secretary Johanns informed me earlier today that Maryland's request for a drought disaster declaration will be formally announced later today or tomorrow morning. 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 and we hope this disaster designation will provide some relief to our local farmers, who are a vital part of Maryland's economy. We will continue to work with the Maryland Department of Agriculture and our federal delegation to help our farmers get through this drought. I also want to thank our federal delegation for all of their continued efforts to help and support Maryland farmers."

"I want to thank Governor O'Malley for moving quickly to help Maryland farmers impacted by the drought," said Roger Richardson, Secretary of the Maryland Department of Agriculture. "We hope this will have some financial benefit to our producers to help them continue their operations into the future."

This designation makes Maryland farm operators eligible to apply for low-interest emergency loans from the USDA Farm Service Agency. Affected farmers should contact their local Farm Service Agency for more information. Contact information, including the applicable Farm Loan Manager, is available online at www.fsa.usda.gov, click on "State Offices" and then "County Offices."

Since the spring of 2007, all of Maryland's 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. Currently, 55 percent is in a severe drought while only 4 percent appears normal.

To support Maryland farmers during this time of need, the Maryland Department of Agriculture continues to offer free testing of grain for the presence of aflatoxins and other toxins, which can be present under drought conditions and are poisonous to livestock.

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