Governor Phil Bredesen has requested a federal designation of agricultural disaster for all 95 counties in the state of Tennessee to help farmers who have suffered crop damages as a result of last week's deep freeze and record low temperatures.
A designation from USDA would allow farmers to apply for low-interest emergency loans that could help them manage crop losses and plan for next year. Bredesen made the request today in a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns.
"The deep freeze and record low temperatures have obviously produced heavy losses for Tennessee's farmers, especially for our fruit crops and winter wheat," said Bredesen. "The early spring warm up followed by extremely low temperatures has really created an unusual circumstance for our farmers.
"We fully expect that there is damage in all 95 counties. By making a statewide request, this will allow USDA to begin the process of collecting damage assessments from all counties, and will hopefully help speed up the approval process so that farmers can apply for assistance."
A hard freeze across the state last week has produced unofficial reports of heavy crop losses, as much as 50 to 100 percent for fruit and vegetable growers and winter wheat producers across the state. Agricultural experts say it's too early to know the extent of damage to the state's corn crop, which may have to be replanted or planted in other crops if small tender plants cannot recover from the freeze.
According to state Agriculture Commissioner Ken Givens, it may be days or weeks before the state has a clear picture and can put some kind of estimate on the damages. "Governor Bredesen certainly understands the importance of agriculture to our state, and I appreciate his quick response in helping our farmers at this critical time."
Collecting damage estimates on a county-by-county basis is the first step in obtaining a federal designation of agricultural disaster, which could take several days or weeks in some cases. Once a county is approved, eligible farmers can apply for assistance through their local USDA Farm Service Agency office.
The Tennessee Field Office of USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service issues a weekly crop and weather report each Monday at 3 p.m. Central Time. A preliminary statewide report on the extent of freeze damage is expected in the April 16 report. For the report and the latest information on Tennessee's crop progress and condition, visit USDA-NASS online at