Marshall County is one of 28 Tennessee counties where farmers are now eligible for low interest loans, supplemental farm payments and other assistance because of drought and excessive heat during the growing season.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack last week agreed with Gov. Phil Bredesen's assessment that a federal designation of natural disaster for agriculture was justifiable here, 27 other counties, and adjoining counties such as Giles, Lincoln and Maury.
Substantiating the request last month were Rick Skillington, the agricultural extension agent here, and Bob Hopkins, director of the Marshall County Emergency Management Agency.
"It was an extremely dry summer," Hopkins said. "We hauled probably 40 percent more water this summer than a normal year."
The May flood delayed planting.
"Then, because of the drought," Skillington said, "we got one good cutting of hay. We usually get two cuttings. Some varieties can give four. Because of drought there was some hay fed as early as September and the yield on crops -- corn, soybeans -- were down to less than half a yield or less."
Hopkins and Skillington's local insight substantiated Bredesen's request to Vilsack.
"This has been an unusual growing season for farmers who have had to endure the extremes of flooding and drought," Bredesen said. "I'm pleased that farmers in these areas have an opportunity to apply for federal assistance to help them better prepare for next year."
Counties designated as primary natural disaster areas include Bedford, Bradley, Carter, Claiborne, Cocke, Dyer, Fayette, Hamilton, Henry, Hickman, Jefferson, Lauderdale, Lewis, Marion, Marshall, Moore, Perry, Polk, Rhea, Rutherford, Sequatchie, Sevier, Sullivan, Tipton, Unicoi, Union, Washington and Williamson.
So far this year, a total of 42 Tennessee counties have been designated a primary natural disaster area due to drought during the growing season. The Secretarial disaster designation makes farmers in primary and adjoining counties eligible to apply for low-interest loans, supplemental farm payments and other assistance through their local USDA Farm Service Agency.
Farmers in affected counties have reported crop losses generally ranging from 30 to 50 percent, and higher in some cases, for corn, soybeans, cotton, hay and specialty crops. Livestock producers also reported feeding winter stocks of hay earlier than normal this year.
Adjoining counties where farmers are also eligible for assistance include Anderson, Benton, Bledsoe, Blount, Campbell, Cannon, Carroll, Cheatham, Coffee, Crockett, Cumberland, Davidson, Decatur, Dickson, Franklin, Gibson, Giles, Grainger, Greene, Grundy, Hamblen, Hancock, Hardeman, Hawkins, Haywood, Humphreys, Johnson, Knox, Lake, Lawrence, Lincoln, Maury, McMinn, Meigs, Monroe, Obion, Roane, Shelby, Stewart, Van Buren, Warren, Wayne, Weakley and Wilson.