Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball on Sept. 9 joined state leaders, New York Farm Bureau President Dean Norton, members of the United States Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency (USDA FSA), and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Wyoming and Genesee Counties to tour several farms in the Finger Lakes and Western New York regions impacted by this summer’s drought. The group visited vegetable and dairy farms to assess the drought damage in the region and better understand the outlook and plan for recovery.
Governor Cuomo recently announced that 24 counties across Upstate New York have been designated as a natural disaster area, and two additional counties have been added since then. There are also additional county requests currently being reviewed by FSA. These designations mean that farmers in those areas may be eligible for assistance, including emergency loans, from the FSA. Genesee and Wyoming Counties were both designated as primary disaster counties, enabling eligible farms in these affected areas to qualify for emergency loans and other assistance programs.
State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “Farms across the State are facing serious challenges as a result of this year’s extreme dry weather, and our Finger Lakes and Western New York counties are some of the hardest hit. Visiting several vegetable and dairy farms today, we’ve seen farmers struggling with a significant decrease in their forage supply, increased production costs as a result of having to secure an outside water source and irrigate crops as well as damaged crops. While we don’t yet know the extent of the damage, we know there will be considerable crop loss, and are encouraging farmers affected by the drought to contact us, or any of our partners, to assist them with navigating the available resources during this difficult time.”
The group visited the McCormick Farm in Wyoming County and Edward Sharp and Sons, Stein Farms and the Branton Farm in Genesee County. These areas have seen a severe lack of rainfall, with the USDA Crop Progress and Condition Report for New York the Weekly Weather Summary for Sept. 5 showing an average rainfall deficit of nearly 6 inches for the season in Western New York, with some areas seeing a deficit as high as nearly 9 inches.
According to Cornell Cooperative Extension, some Wyoming and Genesee County farmers could face a 50 to 60 percent loss on crop sales, and potential of 20 percent loss on livestock sales. In addition, many dairy farmers, who are already challenged with the low cost of milk, will see increased production costs as a result of lack of forage for this winter’s feeding season and the need to bring in an outside water supply. The U.S. Drought Monitor shows Genesee and Wyoming Counties at D3-D4 designation, which has not been seen in at least three decades.
Disaster declaration is based on reporting of crop loss to the federal Farm Service Agency and a D3 designation by the U.S. Drought Monitor. The federal government declared 20 counties as primary natural disaster areas and an additional six counties as contiguous disaster counties due to a recent drought. In addition, several other counties in the North Country, the Finger Lakes, Central New York, and the Southern Tier regions are also requesting primary disaster declarations.
Dean Norton, New York Farm Bureau President, said, “The drought is hitting farmers across the state hard, including in Wyoming and Genesee Counties where agriculture plays a vital role in the community. I appreciate the attention Commissioner Ball is giving to the important issue as I join him today on his tour. New York Farm Bureau is working with him and his department to gain a better understanding of the effects of the dry, hot summer, especially when combined with low milk prices, and to help secure assistance for farmers to address short term needs and mitigate any long-term impacts.”
Dr. Chris Watkins, Director of Cornell Cooperative Extension, said, “New York agriculture is normally blessed with a tremendous resource that we often take for granted – water. In a year like this one, Cornell’s land grant resources are available to provide the highest level of outreach, education, and communication to New York’s farm community. Cornell has activated the county-based Extension Disaster Education Network, EDEN, in partnership with the Department of Agriculture and Markets. Each Extension Association in the hardest hit drought areas are assisting farmers in navigating damage assessments, coordinating with county emergency management personnel, and distributing technical information for on-farm management in water scarce areas. Farmers can access drought resources on the EDEN website, or for dairy producers, find forage quality and animal nutrition recommendations on the Cornell PRO-DAIRY website. Cornell College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the Statewide and County based Extension Network are ready to help in these challenging times for farmers.
A disaster designation makes farm operators in primary counties and those counties contiguous eligible to be considered for certain assistance from the FSA, provided eligibility requirements are met. This assistance includes emergency loans. Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of the disaster declaration to apply for emergency loans. The Farm Service Agency considers each emergency loan application based on the extent of production losses on the farm, and the security and repayment ability of the operator.
Local FSA offices can provide affected farmers with further information. The FSA fact sheet on the emergency loan options can be found online and additional assistance for drought-impacted farms can be found online as well Contact information for the offices can be found online also.
There are also other numerous resources available for farmers affected by the drought through Cornell Cooperative Extension, the Cornell EDEN program, and New York FarmNet to assist with forage management, and programs and projects to better prepare the state for future drought.