New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher is alerting farmers in Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem counties and the contiguous counties of Atlantic, Camden and Cape May that they can still apply for disaster assistance for farm damages stemming from a May 22 storm. The contiguous county rule gives farmer in six counties ag natural disaster status. Excessive rain, flooding, high winds and hail caused significant crop damage.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture determined there were sufficient production losses due to the violent storm that whipped through the area last May to warrant a natural disaster designation, which made farmers in the six counties eligible to be considered for assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency, provided eligibility requirements are met. This assistance includes FSA emergency loans.
The late-afternoon storm was a very intense. "If you were on one side of it you were perfectly fine. If you happened to be in the path of it, chances are you lost everything," recalls New Jersey Ag Secretary Douglas Fisher.
Farmers recounted for him an "unbelievable downpour of hail." The National Weather Service reported hail stones as much as 1¾-inch in size.
At one farm in South Harrison Township, Fisher saw an orchard where all the baby peaches had been stripped off the trees by hail. An asparagus field had spears broken and split by the hail – two lost days of cuttings. In eastern Salem County, producers lost a variety of plants, including tomatoes.
For counties to be designated as primary natural disaster areas, they must have sustained a 30% or greater production loss to a single crop due to the disaster. Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of a Secretarial disaster declaration to apply for emergency loans.
FSA considers each loan application on its own merits, taking into account the extent of production losses on the farm and the security and repayment ability of the operator.