U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and U.S. Representatives Bart Gordon (D-Tenn. 6), John Duncan, Jr. (R-Tenn. 2), Lincoln Davis (D-Tenn. 4), and Phil Roe (R-Tenn. 1), today announced that U.S. Agriculture Secretary Edward Schafer has declared nine counties in Tennessee as “primary natural disaster areas” due to losses caused by drought conditions last year. This announcement follows Governor Bredesen’s December 9, 2008 disaster designation request for these areas. According to Secretary Schafer’s declaration, “This designation makes farm operators in both primary and contiguous counties eligible to be considered for assistance from the Farm Service Agency (FSA), provided eligibility requirements are met.”
The following nine counties were declared as primary natural disaster areas: Bedford, Cocke, Marshall, Maury, Moore, Putnam, Sevier, Van Buren and White.
In addition, 23 other counties were named as “contiguous disaster counties,” also making these areas eligible for assistance. These counties are: Bledsoe, Blount, Coffee, Cumberland, De Kalb, Fentress, Franklin, Giles, Greene, Hamblen, Hickman, Jackson, Jefferson, Knox, Lawrence, Lewis, Lincoln, Overton, Rutherford, Sequatchie, Smith, Warren, and Williamson.
“This declaration is good news for Tennessee farmers who have been plagued by continuing drought conditions,” Alexander said. “With this declaration from the Secretary of Agriculture, they should be able to get the help they need to get them back on their feet.”
“I am pleased Secretary Schafer has made assistance available for eligible agricultural producers in these counties who have been affected by persistent drought conditions,” Corker said. “I hope the designation and subsequent assistance will provide some help to these farmers as they work to recover from the severe weather conditions that have plagued our region for the last few years.”
“This drought has destroyed crop yields and hurt county economies across Middle Tennessee and throughout the rest of the state,” Gordon said. “With this declaration, the many affected farmers and their families in counties like Bedford and Putnam can begin to rebuild and prepare for the start of the next farming season.”
“Conditions over the last few years have not been favorable for farmers in Tennessee and have resulted in the need for this designation,” said Duncan. “The availability of this assistance will give the farmers in these counties the opportunity to restore what has been lost.”
“A strong and healthy agricultural community bodes well for Tennessee’s economy as a whole,” said Davis. “Many of our farms have been struggling over the past few years as a result of the prolonged drought. This assistance to eligible producers will provide some relief.”
“This is welcome news for our farmers and the communities that surround them,” said Roe. “This designation doesn’t replace all the damage done by prolonged drought conditions, but it will help our farmers get past this tough time and keep producing the food and fiber that we all depend on.”
A copy of Secretary Shafer’s letter to Governor Bredesen announcing the disaster designations is attached here.