U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) today saw firsthand the effects on an area farm of the ongoing drought and the year’s late freeze and told a gathering of Tennessee farmers that he is working to secure federal help for their plight.
Alexander joined a group of about 40 farmers and agriculture industry representatives for lunch at the Philadelphia, Tenn., farm of David Richesin. After listening to the farmers’ stories, Alexander took a tour of Richesin’s farm.
“I’m here to make sure the people of Tennessee know our farmers were hit hard this year by a double whammy – first the freeze and now the driest spell in 118 years,” Alexander said. “This is impacting all agriculture. Farmers have been our conservationists, preserving open space, and they must be protected from disasters they cannot foresee.”
Alexander said he is working to ensure that Tennessee’s 95 counties will be declared a federal disaster area due to April’s late freeze. This declaration would provide farmers with low interest emergency loans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In April, Alexander and the rest of the Tennessee congressional delegation sent a letter to the Secretary of Agriculture asking for a federal disaster declaration for the entire state as a result of the freeze. Alexander said he would work with Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen to secure help for the ongoing drought.
Alexander said farmers told him they are suffering huge losses. Farms are facing hay shortages and many are finding conditions too dry to plant soybeans and other row crops. For example, Mr. Richesin’s crops are being threatened since he can’t plant until there is enough rainfall for sufficient soil moisture. According to the National Weather Service, many locations across Tennessee are running eight to fourteen inches below normal.