State agriculture officials expect to ask Gov. William Donald Schaefer to seek federal disaster aid for farmers in Anne Arundel and five other counties hardest hit by the drought.
In reports released yesterday on state crop loss, Anne Arundel ranked after Frederick, Carroll and Washington counties in number of acres of cropland damaged by this summer's severe shortage of rain, a state Department of Agriculture spokesman said.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's state emergency board predicts that by summer's end the county will lose $1.3 million worth of corn, soybeans, hay and other crops growing on nearly 19,000 acres, said Harold Kanarek, the state agriculture spokesman. The county has 567farms on 42,413 acres, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau report.
Board forecasts show the state losing $57.5 million worth ofcrops, concentrated mainly in the six counties, which also include Prince George's and Allegany.
Because they're expected to lose 40 percent of their crops, those six counties would qualify for federal aid, Kanarek said.
The U.S. agriculture secretary would ultimately decide whether to grant aid, which could come in low-interest loans, emergency feed or relief from grazing regulations. Farmers who could show a crop loss of more than 40 percent could apply for aid.
If predictions hold true, the state will end up with about half the damage it suffered in 1988 -- when Maryland lost $113 million worth of crops. The federal government paid out $3.3 million during 1989 for damage during the 1988 season and $12.1 million in 1988 for damage causedby a 1987 drought.
Though it has been drier and hotter earlier than usual this year, conditions still could improve with more rain, said Bruce West, state agriculture statistician for the USDA and state agriculture department.
"Some crops, like soybeans, could do quitewell," West said, though he added that in many places the drought has hurt the corn crop permanently this year.
Rainfall measurements taken at Baltimore-Washington International Airport show a 9-inch shortfall between the start of the growing season May 1 and July 19, West said.