NASHVILLE -- Marshall County is among 29 Tennessee counties that have been designated where farmers may apply for assistance as a result of severe storms and flooding in April and May.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack made the designation on Tuesday, according to an announcement by Gov. Bill Haslam who requested the secretarial designation earlier this month. Marshall is among adjoining counties suffering natural disaster.
"Agriculture is an important industry in this state and contributes significantly to our rural economy. I'm pleased that USDA has acted on my request so promptly," Haslam said. "This assistance helps eligible farmers get back into business after what has been a very difficult spring."
Counties designated as primary natural disaster areas include Dyer, Giles, Greene, Hancock, Hardeman, Hardin, Hawkins, Henderson, Knox, Lake, Madison, Obion, Shelby, Tipton and Washington.
The secretarial disaster designation allows farmers in primary and adjoining counties to apply for the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments Program to help recover lost income. Other assistance such as low-interest loans and livestock loss assistance may already be available through local USDA Farm Service Agency offices.
Adjoining counties where farmers can also apply for assistance include Anderson, Blount, Carroll, Carter, Chester, Claiborne, Cocke, Crockett, Decatur, Fayette, Gibson, Grainger, Hamblen, Haywood, Jefferson, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Lincoln, Loudon, Marshall, Maury, McNairy, Roane, Sevier, Sullivan, Unicoi, Union, Wayne and Weakley.
Farmers in affected counties reported crop losses ranging from 30 to 60 percent, and higher in some cases, primarily for corn and wheat, but also for hay, pastures and specialty crops such as fruits and vegetables and nursery stock. Farmers also reported widespread debris, livestock losses and extensive damage to buildings, equipment and conservation structures.
The biggest reasons for the designation are trees being blown down and the extra rain affected the planting of corn, University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Agent Rick Skillington.
"It was so wet we couldn't get into the fields to plant," Skillington said. "And the flooding we had on Richland Creek on the south end of the county and at Rock Creek, left litter and tree limbs washed out of the creeks and into the fields by the flood waters."
Therefore some planting was late.
UDSA Farm Service Agency County Executive Director Randall Wilson acknowledged later planting.
"Right now there's no loss of corn," Wilson explained from his office on Nashville Highway, "but won't know until harvest time.
"Unless it got dry and stayed that way continually dry through the end of the crop year, Nov. 1, there wouldn't be losses," he said. "If we hadn't got that rain this week, we might have been that way.
"If they had qualifying losses, they'd be eligible for agricultural credits," Wilson said.
Most farmers "try to take crop insurance," he said. "If they have losses beyond that, they could apply for assistance under the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments Program, one of the programs passed by Congress at the end of the Bush Administration.
"Personally, I'm glad we haven't had too bad of losses in this part of the country," Wilson said.
"If we don't use these programs, that's good because it means we don't have a loss."
For the latest Tennessee Crop Progress and Condition report, visit www.nass.usda.gov/tn. In cooperation with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, USDA makes this report available each Monday at 3 p.m., April through November.