All of Md. may qualify for farm aid Drought damage put at $50 million (NAME) Not applicable

August 18, 1993|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,U.S. Department of Agriculture's Maryland Emergency BoardStaff Writer

The summer drought -- one of the worst some Maryland farmers can remember -- is almost certain to bring federal disaster relief to the entire state, the head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Maryland Emergency Board said yesterday.

The hot, dry summer has destroyed $50 million in corn and soybean crops, state agriculture officials estimate. And it could lead to higher grocery prices for chicken. Most Maryland-grown grain is used by the Eastern Shore's poultry industry.

"Quite frankly, this is the worst drought I've ever seen," said 60-year-old James M. Voss, executive director of the Maryland Agricultural Stabilization Conservation Service office in Columbia and chairman of the emergency board.

"You can drive for miles and miles and not see any good crops on the Eastern Shore. And in Southern Maryland, you just don't come across any good spots."

Based on the board's damage assessment report, which was released yesterday, Mr. Voss said, Gov. William Donald Schaefer will be able to ask President Clinton for a disaster declaration covering the entire state. That designation would allow Maryland farmers to qualify for low-interest loans, receive emergency livestock feed payments and be reimbursed for up to 65 percent of their crop losses.

It's too early to put a final dollar figure on crop losses, said M. Bruce West, Maryland's chief agricultural statistician and a member of the emergency board. He estimated that damage to the corn crop would be between $25 million and $30 million, and the soybean loss would be $25 million.

In 15 Maryland counties, drought damage is termed severe, meaning at least 40 percent of crops are lost. According to federal law, adjacent counties also qualify for federal relief. That provision enables all of Maryland to qualify for aid.

The Eastern Shore and Southern Maryland are bearing the brunt ofthe drought, the emergency board survey shows. Calvert County reported an 80 percent loss of its corn crop and a 75 percent loss of soybeans. In St. Mary's County, 75 percent of the corn was destroyed, along with 60 percent of soybeans.

Those two parched regions did not have a "meaningful" rain from mid-June until Aug. 6, Mr. Voss said. By then, it was too late to help the corn crop. And as a result of the drought, late-sprouting soybean plants are now in a race to mature before the first frost, which usually hits the state by Oct. 10.

One of the survey's big surprises was the severe crop damage in Allegany County, which had not reported problems earlier, Mr. Voss said. Eighty percent of the corn crop was destroyed, along with 30 percent of the soybeans.

While Allegany was being added to the list of counties showing severe damage, Howard was dropped. Although there was some crop damage in Howard, Mr. Voss said the rains came in time to help.

Yesterday, Mr. Voss forwarded the emergency board's finding to Maryland Agriculture Secretary Robert L. Walker, who, in turn, notifiedthe governor's office. By this morning, the governor would fax Mr. Clinton a letter requesting emergency relief, Mr. Walker said.

Following a preliminary damage assessment in mid-July, the governor ordered Mr. Walker to notify the White House that there was a serious problem in Maryland. He wanted Maryland to "piggyback" on the emergency aid package being established to help Midwest flood victims.

1993 CROP LOSSES

6*

Percent of crop lost due to drought.

County.. .. .. .. Corn.. .. .. .. Soybean.. .. .. ..Tobacco

Allegany .. .. .. 80 ... .. .. .. 30 .. .. ... ... .NA

Anne Arundel.. .. 50 .. .. .. .. .50 .. .. .. .. .. 50

Calvert .. .. .. 80 .. .. .. .. 75 .. .. .. .. .. 50

Caroline .. .. .. 65 .. .. .. .. 65 .. .. .. .. .. NA

Charles .. .. .. 75 .. .. .. .. 60 .. .. .. .. .. 40

Dorchester .. .. 40 .. .. .. .. 40 .. .. .. .. .. NA

Kent .. .. .. .. 65 .. .. .. .. NA .. .. .. ... ..NA

Montgomery .. .. 60 .. .. .. .. 50 .. .. .. .. .. NA

Pr. George's .. ..60 .. .. .. .. 50 .. .. .. .. .. 45

Queen Anne's .. ..65 .. .. .. .. 30 .. .. .. .. .. NA

St. Mary's .. .. .75 .. .. .. .. 60 ... .. .. .. ..50

Somerset .. .. .. 35 .. .. .. .. 60 .. .. .. .. .. NA

Talbot .. .. .. ..65 .. .. .. .. 40 .. .. .. .. .. NA

Wicomico .. .. .. 50 .. .. .. .. 65 .. .. .. .. .. NA

Worcester .. .. ..40 .. .. .. .. 15 .. .. .. .. .. NA

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