Drought Assistance for Farms
Several forms of financial assistance are available to assist with 2016 drought losses. Grant funding is available through the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR), and direct financial compensation is available to many farms through programs offered by the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA). The FSA also offers disaster assistance through its crop insurance program (available to insured farms only). In addition, two emergency loan programs are available to help farmers cope with drought losses. These grant, insurance, and loan programs are described below.
MDAR Agricultural Environmental Enhancement Program (AEEP)
Recognizing the hardship that farms throughout the Commonwealth have faced during the 2016 growing season due to unprecedented drought, additional grant funding has been made available this year for water conservation projects through AEEP. MDAR will administer $250,000 of grant funding through its AEEP grants for water conservation projects that help farms reduce their operational impact on the environment and better prepare for, and recover after, this years’ severe drought. Selected proposals will be reimbursed up to $25,000 or 85% of total project costs of approved projects. More information and applications available here.
FSA Emergency Conservation Program (ECP)
Disaster assistance is also available through the FSA Emergency Conservation Program, a cost-share program that can help farms rehabilitate farmland damaged by natural disasters or implement emergency water conservation measures such as digging wells. Contact your local FSA service center for more information about available assistance.
FSA Livestock Forage Program (LFP)
The FSA Livestock Forage Program offers direct financial assistance to commercial livestock farms in our region. The payments will compensate livestock farmers for about 53% of the cost of three months of feed for their livestock. Payments will also compensate farms for a portion of the cost of any livestock that farms had to sell off due to the drought. To take advantage of this assistance farms should contact their local FSA service center to complete an FSA acreage report and apply to receive payments.
FSA Tree Assistance Program (TAP)
The FSA Tree Assistance Program offers direct financial assistance to commercial orchard and nursery growers of trees, vines, and shrubs that had over 15% of their plants in any given stand die or become damaged due to the drought. Note that this program does not compensate these farms for the season’s crop losses due to the drought. The payments will compensate farmers for about 65% of the actual cost of replanting and about 50% of the actual cost of rehabilitation, in excess of 15% damage or mortality. Contact your local FSA service center for more information on how to apply for assistance.
FSA Emergency Assistance for Livestock Program (ELAP)
The FSA Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program offers compensation for losses resulting from the cost of transporting water to livestock due to the drought. Contact your local FSA service center for more information on how to apply for assistance.
FSA Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP)
The FSA Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program offers insurance coverage for severe crop losses. Unlike the other FSA disaster assistance programs above, NAP disaster assistance is only available to farms that have purchased the insurance at the start of the season. Basic catastrophic coverage is available, as well as “buy-up” coverage, which can be economically beneficial for farms growing a select number of crops that are key to their business. Special discounted rates are available for beginning farmers, limited resource farmers, and socially disadvantaged farmers (including women, Blacks or African Americans, Hispanics, American Indians or Alaskan Natives, Asians or Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians or other Pacific Islanders).
FSA Emergency Loan Program
The FSA Emergency Loan Program offers low interest loans to farms to assist with losses caused by the recent drought. These loans are available to established farms that have suffered at least a 30% loss in crop production or other physical losses, and can cover up to 100% of drought losses to a maximum amount of $500,000. They are normally repaid within one to seven years and have an interest rate of 3.125%. Other details on loan requirements are available in this fact sheet. All of the counties in Massachusetts have been given the emergency designation needed for farms to qualify for this loan program. Applications for emergency loans must be received within eight months of the county’s emergency designation date. Contact your local FSA service center for more information on how to apply for a loan.
Massachusetts Drought Emergency Loan Fund
The Baker-Polito Administration have announced the launching of a new drought loan fund to help small farms and farm-related businesses in Massachusetts regain financial stability following the drought. The fund will offer up to $1 million in low interest loans of $5,000-$10,000 each to farms and related businesses that have been impacted by the drought. These loans must be repaid within three years, with no payment of principal required during the first six months, and have an interest rate of 3%. More information about the loan fund and application requirements is available on this instruction sheet or by calling 617-337-2803. Applications are available here; completed applications must be received by March 31, 2017, and a prompt review of applications and quick turnaround is anticipated.