Governor may issue crop disaster declaration for much of Michigan : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Engler may issue crop disaster declaration for much of Michigan The Associated Press 8/18/01 5:03 PM

ESCANABA, Mich. (AP) -- Farmers whose crops are being ruined by hot, dry weather in much of Michigan could get relief if Gov. John Engler asks the federal government for crop disaster assistance.

Engler said Friday at the U.P. State Fair that he is close to making such a request. If the U.S. Department of Agriculture grants disaster status, farmers could seek low-interest loans.

"Michigan has been hit hard by dry weather this summer," Engler told television station WBKP. "A lot of the regions of the state, including the Upper Peninsula, have been dry from the beginning."

The Michigan Agriculture Commission and officials with the U.S. Department of Agriculture are assessing the damage. State Agriculture Director Dan Wyant said it will take four to six weeks to finish the surveys.

"We're certainly in a very severe weather condition," Wyant said. "We went out and looked at potatoes, corn, pastures, and it's bad."

Compared to the normal amount of rainfall for the season, the U.P. has a water deficit of 7 to 10 inches, Wyant said.

"The federal definition for a weather related crop disaster is a 30 percent crop loss, and what I saw on our tour, is the U.P. will approach or exceed 30 percent," Wyant said.

Worst hit are potatoes, pasture land and hay, he said. In the U.P.'s Garden Peninsula, dry beans also are in bad shape.

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, met with Wyant at the fair and said she would work to get federal assistance for Michigan farmers.

"We've got some farmers that aren't going to see their crops come in," Stabenow said. "Any effort that we need in terms of disaster assistance, I'll be working with the (Bush) administration on. If the governor declares an emergency, as a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I'll be very involved."

Engler was unable to estimate how much assistance the state might receive.

"We'll be asking for the appropriate assistance as that becomes necessary and as we demonstrate that need," he said. "Unfortunately, I'm afraid we are going to demonstrate some substantial need due to the drought-like conditions.

"You have corn that's fried right to the top," Engler said. "There won't be any grain to speak of. That's a big problem and that's a huge economic loss."

Corn is the state's second-largest crop behind soybeans, which are more resistant to dry weather and stress and have not been as severely affected.

It's already too late for some crops in the Thumb area of the Lower Peninsula and in Delta and Menominee counties in the Upper Peninsula, Wyant said.

"Most of the soils we saw ... are inadequate to sustain a crop," he said. "The rain we got this week helped, but in some cases the damage has been done. ... It's going to be a hardship for farmers in this area."

The Upper Peninsula's second and third hay crop has been virtually destroyed by the heat, and that means it also will cost farmers more to feed their livestock.

Farmers who would seek assistance if a disaster is declared should keep good records that can prove a loss this year compared to the historical average, Wyant said.

Low interest loans of up to $500,000 per farm would be available, based on a federal formula.

-- Martin Thompson (, August 18, 2001

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