Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen has announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated Giles and Macon counties as natural disaster areas for agriculture due to drought conditions in 2008.

“Many farmers were hit hard by extreme weather conditions this past season and are having an especially difficult time in this economy,” said Bredesen. “I appreciate Secretary Vilsack’s approval of my request and hope this will help producers in these areas recover some of their losses and to better manage through the next few months.”

The designation makes farmers in Giles, Macon and adjoining counties eligible to apply for emergency loans, livestock assistance and supplemental farm payments as provided by the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008.

This brings the total to 57 counties that have been designated a natural disaster area for agriculture due to persistent drought conditions that plagued Tennessee farmers in 2008. Because benefits of a disaster designation also extend to adjoining counties, farmers in more than three-fourths of the state’s counties are now eligible to apply for some form of federal assistance.

Farmers can find out if they are eligible for federal assistance by contacting their local USDA Farm Service Agency. A list of federal disaster declarations by state and county can also be found online at www.fema.gov/dhsusda.

Farmers last year reported crop losses ranging from 30 to 65 percent in many cases. Livestock producers also suffered poor pasture conditions, reduced hay yields and water supply issues due to extremely dry growing conditions in late summer and early fall.

For livestock producers needing to buy or looking to sell hay, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture and Tennessee Farm Bureau cooperatively manage the Tennessee Hay Directory. A listing of local and out-of-state sources of hay can be found at www.picktnproducts.org.