Drought declared 'natural disaster' for farmers in Tompkins and 14 other counties

(Featured photo of farms in Dryden. Courtesy of Andy Arthur on Flickr)

(Featured photo of farms in Dryden. Courtesy of Andy Arthur on Flickr)

ITHACA, N.Y. — The United States Department of Agriculture has declared Tompkins and 14 other New York Counties as "primary natural disaster areas" due to crop losses from the recent drought.

With the exception of Cortland, all of Tompkins neighboring counties are also on the list, with the affected area stretching through most of western New York. Four counties in Pennsylvania are also affected.

The designation, announced on Monday, means that farm operators in these areas may be eligible for low-interest emergency loans from the USDA's Farm Service Agency, to help them cover part of their losses due to the drought. You can read the Farm Service Agency's full statement here.

“We just want to make sure farmers, especially our crop growers, recognize that this declaration is out there and this opens the window for that input to be finalized to see where that assistance can be deployed and made available to our farmers of the region,” Congressman Tom Reed told the Corning Leader.

According to the United States Drought Monitor, as of Aug. 23, 57 percent of the land in Tompkins County is considered to be in the D3-D4 range of drought, meaning "Extreme Drought," which may mean major crop/pasture losses and  widespread water shortages or restrictions. The rest of the county is in the D2-D3 range, meaning "Severe Drought."

The most recent agricultural census data from 2012 shows that Tompkins County has 558 farms covering 90,774 acres of land and generates over $67 million in crop and livestock sales annually, with livestock making up about two-thirds of that.

(Featured photo of farms in Dryden courtesy of Andy Arthur on Flickr)