Crops hurting, but not a disaster so far Drought damage worst in S. Maryland

Agriculture

August 22, 1998|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,SUN STAFF

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Maryland Emergency Board reported serious drought damage to field crops yesterday, particularly in the southern part of the state, but withheld a recommendation that the governor seek federal disaster relief.

"There's some serious drought damage in certain parts of the state," said James M. Voss, head of the emergency board and executive director of the federal Farm Service Agency in Maryland, "but the situation is a far cry from what it was last year."

Based on damage reports from each county, the board determined that between 30 percent and 40 percent of the corn crop in seven counties stands to be destroyed by the hot and dry summer. The counties are Charles, Dorchester, Queen Anne's, St. Mary's, Somerset, Talbot and Wicomico.

Southern Maryland tobacco farms are also feeling the brunt of the drought. The board reported that half of the tobacco harvest in Calvert County stands to be ruined by the lack of rain. In Charles County, the loss is projected at 40 percent; in St. Mary's County, at 30 percent.

As things stand now, eight counties would qualify for federal relief, Voss said, explaining that a county has to show a 30 percent loss of a major crop to be considered for disaster designation.

The board held off on recommending that Gov. Paris N. Glendening request disaster relief, hoping that farm conditions will improve by next month.

"It's too early and too close to call," said S. Patrick McMillan, special assistant to state Agriculture Secretary Henry A. Virts. McMillan and several other members of the board expressed confidence that normal rains of the next month could revitalize drought-stressed crops.

Voss said the emergency board will have each county submit updated drought damage reports by Sept. 18. The board will meet Sept. 23 to take another look at the situation.

A federal disaster designation could qualify farmers for low-interest loans.

This time last year the board was reporting corn harvest losses of between 30 percent and 80 percent in 12 Maryland counties.

So far this year, no crop damage is being reported in Carroll, Frederick and Washington counties. Queen Anne's County is reporting a 30 percent loss of its corn this year and 20 percent loss of soybeans.

Pub Date: 8/22/98

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