PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The ongoing drought has led the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to declare all of Rhode Island a natural disaster area.
The declaration, requested by Sen. Jack Reed, means farm operators throughout the state may be considered for federal assistance from the Farm Service Agency (FSA), if they are eligible.
“This prolonged drought has been tough on many Rhode Island farmers, harming the yield and quality of crops,” Reed said earlier this month. “It’s really important that we support farmers who are feeling the heat of this drought. This federal declaration is good news for the state and should help mitigate some of the production losses local farmers are facing.”
According to data from the National Weather Service, only .43 inches of rain fell in Rhode Island in July, compared to the average of 2.5 inches.
The R.I. Department of Environmental Management said the state needs a lot more rain to make up for how dry the summer has been.
“While this rain should quiet things down for a couple of days, it all depends on the amount we get. If what they are forecasting right now looks like about a half inch of rain. That’s not going to do much for the fire danger and it depends on what the weather is going to do in the coming days,” said Ben Arnold, DEM Principal Forest Ranger.
Farmers affected by the drought will have eight months to apply for emergency loans. Those interested in applying can get more information online at Rhode Island’s Farm Service Agency State Office.
Reed also encouraged the state and local governments to utilize federal funds that have already been provided to Rhode Island through the American Rescue Plan Act to help local farmers bounce back from the pandemic and economic hardship.