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Farmers get drought aid from feds

Ten Vermont counties (red) and several contiguous state and regional counties (yellow) were designated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as “disaster areas” because of a drought that has persisted since spring. Affected farmers may be eligible for emergency loans and other forms of relief. (After the USDA produced this map, Rutland County was subsequently re-designated from “contiguous” to “primary,” and should now be red.)

ADDISON COUNTY — For local farmers who have suffered losses because of drought conditions this year, help may be on the way from the federal government.
Last month, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue designated 10 Vermont counties, including Addison, as “primary disaster areas,” according to a media release from the USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA). 
The state’s other four counties, along with several more in the region, have been designated as “contiguous” drought areas, also eligible for assistance.
Addison County farmers and producers who have been affected by the drought since June 1, 2020, could be eligible for federal relief, and are encouraged to contact the FSA office in Middlebury to explore emergency loans or other programs that may apply to their situations, Vermont FSA Director Wendy Wilton told the Independent.
“Emergency loans can be used to meet various recovery needs including the replacement of essential items such as equipment or livestock, reorganization of a farming operation or the refinance of certain debts,” according to the FSA media release.
In some cases, funding may also be available if new infrastructure was needed to be built in response to drought conditions, Wilton said: “For instance, if your well has gone dry and you’ve had to drill a new one, you should get in touch with us.”
The FSA will review loans based on the extent of losses, security available and repayment ability.
Between May and July Burlington got barely half the rain it normally does, according to a report in August by VTDigger. In the first seven months of the year, rainfall at Burlington International Airport was almost 8 inches less than average.
A lot of Addison County farmers were affected by the drought, Sudbury/Orwell farmer Brian Kemp told the Independent in September. Kemp raises 700 to 800 head of cattle on Mountain Meadows Farm, and he is president of the Champlain Valley Farmer Coalition.
Farms in the southern and eastern parts of the county lost “tons of feed” this year, Kemp said. “Some fields were a total failure.”
The FSA has a variety of additional programs to help farmers recover from the impacts of the drought. Programs that do not require a disaster declaration include:
• the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program.
• the Emergency Conservation Program.
• the Livestock Forage Disaster Program.
• the Livestock Indemnity Program.
• Operating and Farm Ownership Loans.
• the Tree Assistance Program.
 The Addison County Farm Service Agency is at 68 Catamount Park in Middlebury. Call 388-6748 for more information about exploring federal aid.
Information about USDA disaster assistance programs can be found at tinyurl.com/y3s838u8.
Reach Christopher Ross at [email protected]

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