Local News

Easley wants aid for drought-hit farmers

Posted October 3, 2008 6:29 p.m. EDT
Updated October 4, 2008 9:10 a.m. EDT

— Gov. Mike Easley wants help from the federal government for farmers who have suffered crop losses due to the drought that began last year.

Easley asked U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer on Friday to declare 59 counties disaster areas. The declaration would allow farmers to receive low-interest emergency loans.

The state Department of Agriculture estimated that farmers had lost more than $500 million as of May.

Although drought conditions have eased in some parts of the state, farmers need financial help to stay in business, the governor said.

“The drought conditions that began in spring of 2007 have devastated many crops, and it is good that rain in the late summer and early fall has eased the drought in parts of the state,” Easley said.

“But many of our farmers need help to stay in business, and this disaster assistance will provide financial aid to an industry that is a significant part of the North Carolina economy.”

Agriculture reports show significant losses in corn, soybeans and hay and other forage crops. At one point during the drought, cattle farmers paid three to four times the normal price for hay.

The declaration would apply to counties, including Caswell, Duplin, Durham, Lenoir, Nash, Orange, Person, Pitt, Robeson, Sampson, Scotland, Wayne and Wilson.

Farmers in any county next to one designated as a disaster area would also be eligible to receive federal aid.

Federal disaster loans were made available to North Carolina farmers last fall, as well.

In May, the state government offered $6 million in grants to help farmers restore drought-damaged pastures and repair farm ponds and wells.

Thirty-two counties, mostly in central North Carolina, were out of the drought, but 58 counties were still experiencing drought or abnormally drought conditions, according to the advisory released Thursday by the N.C. Drought Management Advisory Council.