(The Center Square) — Fifteen localities in Virginia are now eligible for drought emergency assistance loans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency due to drought conditions ranging from severe to exceptional during this year’s growing season.
This season’s drought has been most severe in parts of the Shenandoah Valley and Northern Virginia. Maintained by the federal government’s National Integrated Drought Information System, the U.S. Drought Monitor ranks a region or state’s dryness on a scale of D0 to D4 and is updated weekly. As of Oct. 24, Virginia’s worst-affected areas – again, mainly in the Shenandoah Valley region – were in a D2 drought, or severe drought, meaning crop or pasture losses are likely, water shortages are common and water restrictions have been imposed.
“These localities suffered from a drought intensity value during the growing season of 1) D2, Drought-Severe, for eight or more consecutive weeks or 2) D3, Drought-Extreme, or D4, Drought-Exceptional,” according to a press release from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
The USDA has gone so far as to designate the counties experiencing the worst drought as “primary natural disaster areas.” These are Clarke, Fauquier, Frederick, Loudoun, Rappahannock, Shenandoah and Warren counties, and farmers in these areas can now apply for emergency loans from the Farm Service Agency. Farmers in the surrounding localities of Culpepper, Fairfax, Madison, Page, Prince William, Rockingham and Stafford counties, as well as the city of Winchester, are eligible for assistance.
Surrounding areas (like those mentioned above), as well as Accomack and Northampton counties, were experiencing moderate drought as of Oct. 24. Southwest and Southside Virginia, as well as the stretch of coastline down through the Northern Neck, were experiencing abnormal dryness, or D0, which can often precede or follow drought.
Farmers in the approved fifteen localities have eight months to apply for assistance through the Farm Service Agency. They could be eligible for any one of the FSA disaster assistance programs that applies to drought.
Virginia’s most recent crop progress report shows crops about 10% behind where they have been on average within the past five years.