Governor Phil Bredesen has requested a Secretarial designation of natural disaster for agriculture for 13 counties across middle and west Tennessee as a result of the historic rainfall and devastating floods that began April 30.

Bredesen made the request this week in a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. The 13 counties include: Benton, Chester, Dickson, Fayette, Hardeman, Hickman, Humphreys, Lauderdale, Lewis, Maury, McNairy, Perry and Stewart.

“A Secretarial disaster designation will help bring more federal assistance to farmers who experienced significant crop and livestock losses and damage to farm infrastructure as a result of the storms and flooding,” said Bredesen. “I’m glad to make this request and hope it will help lessen the impact to our farmers and rural communities hit hard by this catastrophe.”

A Secretarial disaster designation would make farmers in designated and adjoining counties eligible to apply for supplemental farm payments through their local USDA Farm Service Agency. For those counties already covered under a Presidential declaration, farmers are also eligible to apply for low-interest emergency loans. Assistance for livestock losses and emergency conservation assistance to help rehabilitate damaged farmland is also available to eligible farmers.

According to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service’s weekly crop survey, Tennessee farmers are reporting moderate to severe damages to 39 percent of the state’s corn crop and 21 percent of winter wheat. Damages to fruit and vegetable crops and nursery stock have also been reported as well as significant damage to farm infrastructure including access roads, levees, fences, conservation practices, buildings and equipment.

According to state Agriculture Commissioner Ken Givens, crop losses could have been much worse. “Although corn was certainly impacted and may not be replanted in some cases, only a small portion of soybeans and cotton were planted at the time of the flooding,” said Givens. “Damages to farm infrastructure and access to the rail system in west Tennessee has impacted the agricultural community tremendously.”

Statewide, NASS is also reporting that farmers in some areas are still unable to access wet or flooded fields, and planting progress for soybeans and cotton remains behind the five-year average. For the latest crop forecast and a weekly report on crop conditions across the state, visit www.nass.usda.gov/tn. The U.S. Department of Agriculture makes this report available each Monday at 3 p.m., April through November.