Governor Phil Bredesen has requested a secretarial designation of natural disaster for agriculture for 28 additional counties as a result of drought and excessive heat during the growing season. 

The counties include Bedford, Bradley, Carter, Claiborne, Cocke, Dyer, Fayette, Hamilton, Henry, Hickman, Jefferson, Lauderdale, Lewis, Marion, Marshall, Moore, Perry, Polk, Rhea, Rutherford, Sequatchie, Sevier, Sullivan, Tipton, Unicoi, Union, Washington and Williamson.

“This has been an unusual year for farmers across the state, beginning with the May flood, continuing with extreme heat during the summer and ending the growing season in a drought,” said Bredesen. “Farmers are in a tough business made even more difficult by the uncertainty of the weather. I’m glad to make this request for some much needed federal assistance.”

Bredesen made the request in a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. A Secretarial disaster designation would make farmers in these and adjoining counties eligible to apply for low-interest loans and supplemental farm payments through their local USDA Farm Service Agency.

Farmers in these counties have reported crop losses generally ranging from 30 to 50 percent, and higher in some cases for corn, soybeans, cotton, hay and specialty crops such as pumpkins and nursery stock. Livestock producers also reported feeding winter stocks of hay earlier than normal this year due to very poor pasture conditions. 

Bredesen’s request follows a USDA designation of natural disaster earlier this year for 14 counties due to drought. Those counties include Benton, Bledsoe, Blount, Carroll, Greene, Knox, Loudon, McMinn, Meigs, Monroe, Roane, Sumner, Warren and Weakley. 

“With the exception of cotton, overall crop production is below average this season as we’ve seen yields vary from county to county and from farm to farm,” said Agriculture Commissioner Terry J. Oliver. “Federal assistance will be important for farmers who are now looking ahead to next year’s crop and hopeful for better prices, but rising input costs continue to put a strain on the farm economy.”

According to the Tennessee Field Office of the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, the final seasonal survey for the week ending Nov. 7 showed two-thirds of pastures statewide rated in poor to very poor condition. For the latest forecast on the state’s crop harvest, visit www.nass.usda.gov/tn.