IOW poised to request drought aid

Published 8:43 am Friday, August 6, 2010

ISLE OF WIGHT—Isle of Wight County is preparing to follow the lead of neighboring Southampton County in requesting that Gov. Bob McDonnell declare it a drought disaster area.

Phillip Bradshaw, the chairman of the Isle of Wight Board of Supervisors, said he has asked the county’s new extension agent, Janet Spencer, to be at the Aug. 19 board meeting to present her findings.

“She will be on the agenda to make a presentation to the board,” Bradshaw said Thursday. “I requested she look into it. We will have a resolution (seeking drought disaster area designation) ready to go.”

Spencer was out of the office and unavailable for comment Thursday.

The Southampton County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution at its July 26 meeting, asking McDonnell to declare the county a drought disaster area.

McDonnell spokesperson Stacey Johnson said the governor would have Todd Haymore, the state’s secretary of agriculture and forestry, check into counties requesting the designation to make sure they qualify. She said the chief requirement was for a locality to lose 30 percent of a major crop to drought.

In Southampton, officials say about 70 percent of the corn crop and 60 percent of pastureland is believed lost to drought, with farm income losses topping $3.7 million.

“We are moving very quickly to make sure that this investigation is moving and we can get aid to these counties as quickly as possible,” Johnson said Thursday.

She added that about 19 of the state’s 95 counties have requested the designation so far.

Johnson said the governor would then contact U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to request aid for eligible counties.

With the aid, local farmers may qualify for low-interest emergency loans to cover property and production costs, living expenses or certain debts. Farmers can borrow up to 100 percent of actual production or physical losses, to a maximum of $500,000.

Bradshaw said he agreed with Spencer’s prediction last month that crop losses in Isle of Wight would be similar to those in Southampton.

“I think it’s going to be very similar to Southampton throughout Isle of Wight,” Bradshaw said. “If it’s not, I’ll be surprised. Our region has been hit very hard. We’ve got to be able to do whatever we can to give the farmers the support that they need.”