BOSTON – September 20, 2016 – Under a recent declaration made by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 11 Massachusetts counties have been designated as primary natural disaster areas and three counties as contiguous natural disaster area counties due to crop losses, particularly of tree fruits like peaches, caused by frost and freeze occurring between February and May. The counties with primary disaster designation are Barnstable, Berkshire, Bristol, Essex, Franklin, Hampden, Hampshire, Middlesex, Norfolk, Plymouth and Worcester. The counties named as contiguous disaster counties are Dukes, Nantucket and Suffolk. This disaster designation makes farms in designated counties eligible for assistance from the Farm Service Agency (FSA), including emergency loans.
“Massachusetts’ diverse agricultural industry has long been a vital part of the Commonwealth’s economy, creating good jobs and providing healthy, local food for residents,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “We appreciate the United States Department of Agriculture taking steps to assist farms across the Commonwealth. I encourage farmers adversely impacted by this year’s extreme weather conditions to explore the USDA programs and the state’s Emergency Drought Loan Fund.”
“This year’s weather has been a great challenge to Massachusetts farmers; first with the winter freeze and now with a severe drought,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton. “Despite that, our farmers have done a remarkable job at getting high-quality, nutritious food to market, and I urge Massachusetts residents to buy local to support our hardworking farmers.”
In addition to the designation as primary and contiguous natural disaster areas, the same 11 counties became eligible for the USDA’s Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) as the result of the ongoing drought. The LFP program provides compensation to eligible livestock producers who have suffered grazing losses on pasture land.
“Our livestock and dairy industry is a significant contributor to the state’s economy, contributing over $70 million dollars annually. We appreciate USDA implementing a program to address this specific sector,” said Department of Agricultural Resources Commissioner John Lebeaux. “In addition to seasonal harvests, consumers have year-round access to top-quality, Massachusetts-produced dairy and meat products.”
Farmers in the designated counties are urged to contact their local FSA county offices for more information on the available programs.
Earlier this month, the Baker-Polito Administration announced the launch of the Massachusetts Drought Emergency Loan Fund, which has the capacity to provide up to $1 million in micro-loans to family farms and other small businesses affected by widespread drought conditions in Massachusetts.