Press Release

August 29, 2012
Secretary Vilsack Signs Maryland Secretarial Disaster Designation Paving the Way for Recovery Assistance for 21 Maryland Municipalities

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Barbara A. Mikulski (both D-Md.) were joined by members of Maryland’s Congressional Delegation along with Governor Martin O’Malley (D-Md.) and Maryland FSA today in applauding Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack for issuing a Secretarial Disaster Designation for Maryland following severe drought and excessive heat which have decimated Maryland crops.  Senators Cardin and Mikulski were joined by U.S. Representatives Steny H. Hoyer, Roscoe E. Barlett, Chris Van Hollen, C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, John P. Sarbanes and Donna F. Edwards.

Team Maryland issued a formal request for federal assistance to Secretary Vilsack, available here. Their letter supported an earlier request from Governor O’Malley, available here.  

“Fewer natural occurrences are more devastating to agricultural production than extreme drought and I thank the Obama administration for acting promptly on our request for disaster designation. The President and lawmakers cannot end the drought but we can help to mitigate the damage to our Maryland farmers,” said Senator Cardin.

“Maryland crops have been battered and beaten by devastating drought and record-breaking heat this summer,” Senator Mikulski said. “This federal assistance will be welcome relief for farmers and will help get Maryland’s number one industry back on track. They deserve a government on their side and shouldn’t have to shoulder this burden on their own. I’m proud to fight with Team Maryland for farmers and agriculture across our state.”

“Thanks to Secretary Vilsack, other leaders in the Obama Administration, and all of our federal partners in Maryland’s Congressional delegation, we are now able to provide Maryland’s farmers with some relief during the drought,” said Governor O’Malley. “Our farmers continue to be a vital part of Maryland’s heritage and together, we can support our rural economies, improve our quality of life, and secure the future of Maryland agriculture and our environment for generations to come.”

The Secretarial Disaster Designation means that farmers in affected Maryland communities will be able to apply for low-interest emergency loans from the Farm Service Agency, which falls under the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Farmers can borrow up to 100 percent of actual production or physical losses, not to exceed a total amount of $500,000. Affected Maryland communities include the counties of: Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Calvert, Caroline, Carroll, Cecil, Charles, Dorchester, Frederick, Harford, Howard, Kent, Montgomery, Prince George’s, Queen Anne’s, St. Mary’s, Somerset, Talbot, Wicomico, Worcester and the City of Baltimore.   

“I’m pleased that Secretary Vilsack approved Governor O’Malley’s request for a Secretarial disaster designation for Southern Maryland and other areas affected by severe drought, providing much-needed relief to our farmers,” said Congressman Hoyer. “Our agricultural community has been significantly impacted by the drought and excessive heat Maryland has experienced this summer. I’m committed to ensuring our farmers have the resources needed to recover from this severe weather and will continue to fight for this industry that is important to our local economy and our rural heritage.”

“As a result of today’s disaster declaration approval by USDA Secretary Vilsack, farmers in Baltimore, Harford and Montgomery counties should be relieved to know that as contiguous disaster areas, they will be eligible to apply for low-interest emergency loans if they suffered production or physical losses due to the extraordinary heat and drought this summer,” said Congressman Bartlett.  “This is another example of how members of the Congressional delegation work cooperatively and collaboratively with Governor O’Malley to make our federal government work better for all Marylanders.”

“Today’s disaster designation offers much needed assistance to farmers in the Eighth District and across the state who have been hit by the summer’s drought and excessive heat. I will continue to work with Secretary Vilsack to help Maryland farmers get back on their feet quickly,” said Congressman Van Hollen.

“This declaration will be a huge relief to Maryland farmers, whose corn and vegetable crops have been ruined by this summer’s drought and extreme heat,” said Congressman Ruppersberger. “Rainfall across Maryland during the first six months of year was the fifth-lowest on record. I applaud Secretary Vilsack for providing emergency help to hundreds of farmers and their families who continue to struggle to make ends meet.”

“The drought in our state has hurt farmers and left them struggling to get through the season,” said Congressman Sarbanes. “This type of extreme weather is becoming more frequent as a result of climate change and we can no longer ignore the problem. By granting Governor O’Malley’s request, Secretary Vilsack is helping Maryland’s farmers get back on their feet.”

“I am grateful for Secretary Vilsack’s prompt action to designate 21 municipalities in Maryland as natural disaster areas due to excessive drought and heat,” said Rep. Donna F. Edwards,” said Rep. Donna F. Edwards.  “Farmers in the 4th Congressional District and across the state of Maryland have suffered severe crop losses, and this assistance will prove critical to help them recover.  I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues in the Maryland delegation and our partners at the federal and state level to ensure our farmers continue to receive the assistance they require.”

“This designation gives the Farm Service Agency (FSA) one more critical tool – low interest emergency loan assistance – to help Maryland’s affected producers,” said Lucie L. Snodgrass, Maryland FSA State Executive Director. “We encourage farmers to contact their local FSA offices directly to see if they are eligible for help.”   

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