NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — The U.S. Department of Agriculture designated New London and Windham counties as primary natural disaster areas due to current drought conditions, the federal agency announced Friday.
The USDA also designated Hartford, Middlesex, and Tolland counties as contiguous counties under the declaration.
The designation allows farmers in these counties to be considered for certain assistance from the Farm Service Agency (FSA), including emergency loans due to production losses.
Scott’s Yankee Farmer in East Lyme is feeling the effects of the drought. Drip tape is laid throughout most of their fields.
“This tape has holes in it every, I don’t know, every eight or ten inches,” owner Karen Scott said.
The tomatoes, peaches, cucumbers, and Mesilla hot peppers are all sold in the farm stand. They’ve had to irrigate these crops all summer long, costing them at least $700 or $800 a month in gas alone.
They’ve also lost about nine acres of corn because of another drought-related problem. Scott said deer have been eating it because of a lack of vegetation in the forests.
“So, that’s costing us over $300 a day when we shouldn’t have to be spending that to buy corn so we have some to sell here,” Scott said.
Scott said she doesn’t need to take out a loan right now but hopes the designation will mean grants or other assistance in the future to cover the farm’s added expenses.
“I guess I’m in an okay situation that I don’t need a loan to get by,” Scott said. “Maybe somebody much smaller than us probably does because they lost some of their income.”
The one crop they have not watered is the apple trees, and that’s because they are so deep-rooted and are surviving. Scott said the apples will be ready for picking in the next few weeks.
“Once we get some rain, the apples are going to swell really quickly,” she said.
Even if Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate, Scott said the apples may be small but very flavorful.
Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of the declaration to apply for emergency loans. FSA considers each emergency loan application on its own merits, taking into account the extent of production losses on the farm and the security and repayment of the operator, the federal agency said.
Farmers interested in applying for assistance must contact their local Farm Service Agency office.