Governor Seeks Federal Disaster Aid for Farmers

Nashville (WVLT) – The showers Thursday were hardly a relief for farmers facing losses from the drought, but it was at least some rain, but there could be more help on the way in the form of money.

Governor Bredesen has requested federal aid for all 95 counties in Tennessee suffering from the extreme drought conditions.

Volunteer TV's Allison Hunt talked with a local farmer who says farmers need all they help they can get.

It may be a small farm in rural Knox County, but Dennis Fox says he's never seen it this dry in his 23 years raising fruit, so he can only imagine how difficult it must be for farmers depending on this year's harvest.

Dennis fox's fruit crop got a little relief.

"So far today, we've gotten that much rain," Fox said.

But it's not nearly enough.

"We'll take all we can get, but this rain probably won't wet the ground an inch deep," Fox said.

And it didn't. It just dampened the surface.

"We don't have the product to sell, we don't have customers coming in," Fox said.

This season's blackberry's are half the normal size, apple trees are dead, and corn ears are small.

"It's really hurting us bad right now," Fox said.

The fruit and berry patch needs rain just like thousands of farms across the state. To recover from this agricultural disaster, governor Bredesen has requested aid to help farmers recover.

"That's money for family living, money for reinvestment in machinery, those type of things that really won't be there unless we have a turnaround," UT economist Delton Geroff said.

Fox's small farm in Halls will lose more than $100,000 in sales this year.

"The farmers that are having to make a living off of the farm, they won't make it another year unless they get some help I'm afraid," Fox said.

Agriculture economists say corn crops are decent in other parts of the country, so price tags may not be higher, but some locally grown fruit may get pricey.

"Peaches are going to be at least twice, maybe 3 times as high as they were last year, if you can get them," Fox said.

So until the rain falls, thousands of farmers will keep praying for rain, and Fox will get through his dry days on a simple philosophy.

"Don't dwell on things you can't do anything about, and I can't do anything about the weather," Fox said.

The first step in getting farmers the aid they need is to collect damage estimates county by county, this could take several days or weeks.

Once a county has been approved, eligible farmers can apply for low-interest loans and other possible assistance through their local USDA service centers.

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