by Kimberley James
If approved on the federal level, more Connecticut farmers could gain assistance for the harsh realities dealt them by the ongoing drought.
A natural disaster request was submitted to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Gov. Ned Lamont said, for Litchfield and New Haven counties where drought conditions have caused damage to farms.
The effort could give “consideration of certain emergency assistance from the Farm Service Agency, such as low-interest loans,” a release from the governor’s office says. Approval could open assistance to farm operators in Litchfield and New Haven counties, as well as to those counties that are contiguous.”
“This summer’s weather conditions have been rough on farmers in Connecticut, and the approval of this federal declaration will enable those producers who are experiencing significant losses to apply for emergency assistance so they can continue supporting their businesses and the many jobs they provide,” Lamont said in a release. “While some of our counties have already received this designation, Litchfield and New Haven counties are now above the 30% crop-loss trigger required for a similar declaration. I appreciate Secretary Vilsack’s consideration of this request, as well as his ongoing support for Connecticut’s agricultural industry.”
The move comes one month after the agency approved disaster declarations in New London and Windham counties, according to the release, that have affected farmers in Hartford, Middlesex and Tolland counties.
While much of New England is facing drought conditions, the state is experiencing far less rainfall than it received last summer.
“There are many sections of rivers and streams where the riverbed is dry,” Alicea Charamut, executive director of Rivers Alliance of Connecticut, told The Center Square. “This impacts communities of critters that are important food for fish and other amphibians. It also means that some spawning areas may be unavailable for some species of fish that spawn in the fall if this lack of precipitation continues. The low flows combined with hot daytime and warmer-than-usual nighttime temperatures puts trout and other species that rely on cold, clean water in peril. Groundwater levels are also low.”
Data shows, Charamut said, that the majority of the state’s rivers and streams have been below the 25th percentile for this time of year for at least a month.
Charamut said it’s very important for residents to take conservation very seriously at this point –even after a rainstorm or two.
Charamut said the state has been doing an excellent job of monitoring conditions and meeting regularly to determine next steps as well as issuing press releases and communicating behind the scenes with water utilities and other stakeholders.
“As a state, we could do a better job of mitigation measures for drought,” Charamut said. “We need to focus on year-round conservation – two-days-a-week watering such as what has been implemented in Fairfield County is a good example of this – and updating fixture standards. Outside of mitigation measures to ensure that we have enough drinking water, we could be doing a much better job of making sure we’re not making land-use decisions that impede the infiltration of stormwater so that our groundwater gets recharged and protecting forested and vegetated buffers along our major rivers and backyard streams.”
Both of these measures, Charamut said, can help lessen the stress on our fish, frogs and turtles when water levels get low and we experience long periods of oppressive heat.
In the request to Secretary of Agriculture Thomas J. Vilsak, Lamont said Litchfield and New Haven counties are experiencing the same drought conditions as the counties approved in August for aid, which includes a 30% loss of any crop to meet the threshold.
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Kimberley James is a contributor to The Center Square.