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Maine farmers eligible for disaster relief due to drought

The USDA designated 14 Maine counties as disaster areas due to drought, making farmers eligible for disaster relief assistance.
Credit: AP
Fields are covered with flowering potato plants on Sunday, July 19, 2020, near Fort Fairfield, Maine. The vast majority of Maine's thousands of acres of potato farms are located in Aroostook County in northern Maine, which is experiencing the driest summer on record. (AP Photo/David Sharp)

WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on Tuesday announced that Maine farmers are eligible for disaster relief assistance due to the drought.

USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue designated Franklin, Penobscot, Piscataquis, Sagadahoc, Somerset, and Washington counties as primary natural disaster areas. Androscoggin, Aroostook, Cumberland, Kennebec, Lincoln, Oxford, Waldo, and York counties were named as contiguous disaster counties. Aroostook County was previously designated as a primary natural disaster area in September.

A Secretarial disaster designation makes farm operators in primary counties and contiguous counties eligible to be considered for certain assistance from the Farm Service Agency (FSA), which includes FSA emergency loans. FSA emergency loans may be used to:

  • Restore or replace essential property;
  • Pay all or part of production costs associated with the disaster year;
  • Pay essential family living expenses;
  • Reorganize the farming operation; and
  • Refinance certain debts.

RELATED: USDA invests $2.19 million to help Maine farms, agribusinesses with value-added activities

Maine Gov. Janet Mills and members of the Maine Delegation welcomed the news, saying the relief is much-needed.

In a joint statement, Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King and Reps. Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden said they have "strongly supported" relief funding amid the pandemic, and the drought designation will help provide further assistance to Maine farmers. 

“Maine farmers have faced tremendous challenges this year, from supply chain disruptions caused by COVID-19 to the drought that severely impacted the growing season,” the Delegation said in a joint statement. “Maine farms sustain our rural communities, whether they are newly founded operations or ones that have been passed down from generation to generation. We strongly supported COVID-19 relief funding to help Maine farmers get through this difficult period, and this designation will help provide additional assistance.”

“The statewide drought conditions are severely impacting our agricultural sector and the rural communities they support,” Mills said in a statement. “I welcome the USDA’s declaration and the disaster relief it will bring to Maine’s hardworking farmers. I will continue to work closely with Maine’s Congressional Delegation to support our farmers throughout this challenging period.”

Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of a Secretarial disaster declaration to apply for emergency loans.