Gov. Matt Bevin submitted an emergency disaster designation and declaration request Monday in support of Kentucky’s farmers to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.
The request follows months of heavy rains and severe weather in the Commonwealth, resulting in flooding and wind damage in many Kentucky counties. These weather events adversely impacted the yield and quality of crops for farmers across the state and resulted in damage to buildings, fences, equipment and farming infrastructure.
“Kentucky farm families are a vital part of our individual communities and our state’s overall economy,” said Gov. Bevin. “We are grateful to Secretary Perdue and the USDA for considering this request to provide our hardworking farmers with much-needed assistance in the aftermath of an extraordinarily challenging weather year.”
Clint Hardy, the extension agent for agriculture and natural resources in the Daviess County Cooperative Extension Office, said he was familiar with the request, but he thinks it is aimed primarily at a region east of I-65 in Kentucky.
“In general, we were fortunate in Daviess County and the Green River area in that we successfully harvested a good crop,” he said.
Farther east in Kentucky, “they just endured a tremendous amount of rainfall … there were severe crop quality issues in what has been harvested,” Hardy said. “They have really, really been beaten up by excessive rain.”
In the request to Secretary Perdue, Gov. Bevin urged that assistance be made available to Kentucky farmers to mitigate the significant harvest losses and discounted market prices resulting from poor weather conditions.
“Farming is one of the few occupations where year after year you can do everything right, and Mother Nature can sweep it all away,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles. “The Kentucky Department of Agriculture appreciates this request for an emergency declaration and any support it may provide our hardworking farmers who produce food and fiber for the Commonwealth.”
“Farming is indeed a high-risk business. Kentucky has had an abnormally wet and windy September and fall,” said Warren Beeler, executive director for the Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy (GOAP). “Due to the remnants of two hurricanes, we have blown down crops, fences taken out from flooding and damaged discounted grain at marketing time. Kentucky agriculture needs and is thankful for the Governor’s request for a disaster declaration.”
USDA Secretarial disaster designations must be requested by the governor or the governor’s authorized representative. Once approved by the USDA, the designation will allow for the availability of low-interest loans to farmers in all primary and contiguous counties impacted by the disaster.
Eligible natural disasters include “damaging weather conditions or other adverse natural occurrence phenomena [that] have substantially affected farmers causing severe production losses.”
“This year’s heavy rains and strong winds have resulted in damaged crops and even some farmers suffering a total loss,” said Sen. Paul Hornback, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee. “I appreciate the Governor’s decision to request assistance from the USDA, and I’m hopeful that important federal resources will soon be made available to support Kentucky farmers.”
“Every year and every season, Kentucky farmers face the rigors of the weather,” said Rep. Richard Heath, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. “This year, the weather has taken an extraordinary toll on our local communities and economies. As a result, I applaud Gov. Bevin for pursing these emergency loans for farmers that are in great need. I look forward to Secretary Purdue and the USDA quickly approving relief for the areas of Kentucky that have been hit so hard with adverse weather, which has damaged crops and even farm infrastructure.”
Farm Loan Manager Mike Miller in the Daviess County Farm Service Agency office, said it was good that the governor requested the declaration, but he won’t know anything about its effect on local farmers until the request is approved by the Secretary of Agriculture or the President of the United States.