USDA Declares Aroostook County a Drought Disaster Area
September 21, 2020
For more information contact: Tom Gordon at: Tom.Gordon@maine.gov
Farmers impacted by current drought conditions encouraged to contact the USDA Farm Service Center for assistance and take advantage of important financial assistance programs and resources designed to help producers recover from production and physical losses
AUGUSTA - The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry (DACF) is encouraging Maine farmers to contact their local USDA Farm Service Center for drought assistance. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue recently designated Aroostook County as a drought disaster area, making farm operators in Aroostook and its four contiguous counties, Penobscot, Piscataquis, Somerset, and Washington, eligible for emergency assistance from the Farm Service Agency (FSA). Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of a Secretarial disaster declaration to apply for emergency loans. FSA considers each emergency loan application on its own merits, considering the extent of production losses on the farm and the operator's security and repayment ability. The drought disaster declaration may be expanded to other counties if drought conditions persist.
A Secretarial Disaster Designation is triggered for severe drought through a fast track process when a county meets the D2 (Severe Drought) drought level for eight consecutive weeks or a higher drought intensity value for any length. Secretarial Disaster Designations immediately trigger the availability of low-interest FSA Emergency (EM) loans to eligible producers in all primary and contiguous counties. EM loan funds may be used to:
- Restore or replace essential property;
- Pay all or part of production costs associated with the disaster year;
- Pay essential family living expenses;
- Reorganize the farming operation; and
- Refinance certain debts.
DACF also encourages farmers to plan for future drought conditions by upgrading their water supplies and improving their soils. The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provides technical assistance for agricultural water management plans, farm ponds, and irrigation systems. Soil health practices such as composting, cover crops, and reduced tillage can improve soil moisture-holding capacity. Farmers should contact their local Soil & Water Conservation District or local NRCS Service Center for assistance and recommendations on soil health practices.
Drought Assistance for Livestock and Crops
Farmers in need of hay for their livestock can search the University of Maine Cooperative Extension's Hay Directory for sources of hay or straw. Farmers with excess hay are encouraged to post availability with the Extension Hay Directory Form.
The following FSA Farm Programs automatically trigger once the county has been at D2 drought status for eight consecutive weeks or immediately upon hitting D3 status for any length of time, as reported weekly by the U.S. Drought Monitor:
- Livestock Forage Program (LFP) - provides payments to livestock producer for grazing losses
- Emergency Livestock Assistance Program (ELAP) - provides financial assistance to livestock producers for losses resulting from the additional cost of transporting water to livestock due to an eligible drought
- Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) provides cost-share to provide emergency water during periods of severe drought (specifically for grazing and confined livestock and existing irrigation systems for orchards and vineyards)
The Non-insurable Crop Assistance Program (NAP) - acts like crop insurance but is for non-insurable crops and covers drought-related losses. In this case, the crop loss acts as the trigger for the program.
Farmers called upon to respond to MEMA's Dry Well Survey
Recently, the Maine Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) launched an on-line Dry Well Survey to assist the State Drought Task Force in assessing the impacts of the drought. Anyone wishing to complete the survey without internet access can call 2-1-1. Completing the survey does not guarantee assistance and helps the Task Force determine how widespread the problem may be and what resources may be needed.
Further information on DACF programs to encourage agricultural development and sustainability may be found on the Departments Agricultural Resource Development Division website.