Jefferson included in disaster declaration
CHARLESTON – After learning from state officials that many farmers continue to suffer from persistent drought conditions, Gov. Joe Manchin sent a letter Sept. 10 to the secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture requesting disaster assistance for nine West Virginia counties.
Also on Sept. 10, the governor issued a proclamation declaring a natural disaster caused by severe dry conditions for Berkeley, Grant, Hampshire, Hardy, Jefferson, Mineral, Morgan, Pendleton and Preston counties.
Information was not released by Manchin’s office until Monday.
The USDA’s West Virginia Farm Service Agency says the nine counties included in the proclamation have reached the threshold of at least 30 percent losses in at least one major crop.
Beginning April 1, dry weather conditions and lack of significant rainfall caused severe damage and losses to farmers in these affected counties. Crops of concern include apples, peaches, corn, hay, pasture and soybeans. Water supplies for livestock are low also. worrying farmers and West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture Gus R. Douglass.
“I have been informed by (W.Va.) Commissioner (of Agriculture Gus R.) Douglass that many farmers in our eastern counties are facing significant challenges,” Manchin said. “The dry conditions in early April continue to make things difficult for the hardworking farmers in the state and I am confident that Secretary Vilsack and the U.S. Department of Agriculture will determine that these areas meet the disaster criteria for assistance.”
Douglass stated that this has been an extremely difficult summer for farmers in the Eastern Panhandle.
“Besides the lack of rain, the windy conditions and low humidity have helped reduce soil moisture to extremely low levels, and livestock are also suffering, as streams and ponds dry up,” said Douglass.
On Sept. 7, the governor issued a ban on all outdoor burning in eight counties of West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle because of dry weather conditions. That ban remains in effect until it is rescinded by the governor.
In a related matter, U.S. Sens. Jay Rockefeller and Carte P. Goodwin, both D-W.Va., Wednesday sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Vilsack in support of Gov. Manchin’s request that nine counties in the Eastern Panhandle and surrounding area in the state be declared disaster areas because of extreme drought conditions.