Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor | Richard A. Ball, Commissioner
Jola Szubielski, Lisa Koumjian 518-457-0752

September 06, 2016

State Agriculture Commissioner and State Leaders Tour Farms Impacted by Drought in Jefferson and Oswego Counties

Commissioner Will Visit Western New York and Southern Tier Counties Designated as Natural Disaster Areas in Upcoming Days

Emergency Loan Fact Sheets Available Online

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State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball today joined Senator Pattie Ritchie, other state leaders, Farm Bureau President Dean Norton, members of the United States Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency (USDA FSA), and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County to tour several farms in Jefferson and Oswego Counties impacted by this summer’s drought.  The group visited three dairy farms and a Christmas tree farm to assess the drought damage in the region and better understand the outlook and plan for recovery.  

Last week, Governor Cuomo announced that 24 counties across Upstate New York have been designated as a natural disaster area, and additional county requests were being reviewed by FSA.  These designations mean that farmers in those areas may be eligible for assistance, including emergency loans, from the FSA.  Oswego County was designated as a contiguous disaster county and Jefferson County’s request for a disaster declaration to provide assistance to farmers is currently pending.

State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, "Our State's farms are facing serious challenges with this year's extensive drought—from damaged crops to concerns with hauling water.  Seeing these corn crops and tree farms in this condition in Jefferson and Oswego Counties is concerning and it's important we join together with our partners, Senator Ritchie, Farm Bureau, Cornell and the FSA, to be able to better assess the damage and assist our farmers access the resources available in the areas that are in need."

Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Senator Patty Ritchie said, “From corn to Christmas trees, today's tour provided another firsthand look at just how damaging the summer's hot, dry weather has been to the operations of our local farmers. I would like to thank Commissioner Ball for taking a personal interest in the situation agribusiness owners in our region are facing and look forward to working with him and other leaders to develop a plan that helps our hardworking farmers rebound.”

The group visited the Eastman Dairy Farm, Sheland Farms and Windsong Dairy in southern Jefferson County and Hemlock Haven farm in Oswego County. These areas have seen a severe lack of rainfall, with Cornell Cooperative Extension reporting that July of this year has been the driest July in 25 years.

According to Cornell Cooperative Extension, a high percentage of Jefferson County corn growers are facing at least a 30 percent yield loss on corn (silage and grain) with many farms close to a 45 to 50 percent loss.  Hay crop yield losses in Jefferson County are more than 25 to 30 percent. The dry weather also had a very negative impact on the alfalfa and seedlings this season.  In addition, many dairy farmers will see increased production costs as a result of lack of forage and the need to bring in an outside water supply.

Disaster declaration is based on reporting of crop loss to the federal Farm Service Agency and a D3 designation by the U.S. Drought Monitor. The federal government declared 15 counties as primary natural disaster areas and an additional nine counties as contiguous disaster counties due to a recent drought. In addition, several other counties in the North Country, like Jefferson County, the Finger Lakes, Central New York, and the Southern Tier regions are also requesting primary disaster declarations.  Currently, Jefferson County is at a D2 designation, according to the Drought Monitor.

Dean Norton, New York Farm Bureau President, said, “The drought is hitting farmers across the state hard, including in Jefferson County where agriculture plays a vital role in the community. I appreciate the attention Commissioner Ball is giving to the important issue as I join him today on his tour.  New York Farm Bureau is working work with him and his department to gain a better understanding of the effects of the dry, hot summer, especially when combined with low milk prices, and to help secure assistance for farmers to address short term needs and mitigate any long-term impacts.”

Kevin Jordan, Executive Director, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County, said, “I appreciate Commissioner Ball taking the time to speak with Jefferson County farmers. The extreme drought is causing serious stress for farmers engaged in all aspects of agricultural production, but is particularly difficult for our county’s dairy farms due to a prolonged low milk price cycle. I encourage farmers coping with the drought and homeowners interested in water conservation to view our Cornell Extension System’s resources available at It’s important that the Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture and Markets, as well as our elected representatives, Senator Patty Ritchie, Assemblymembers Ken Blankenbush and Will Barclay, see and hear firsthand how farmers and the extension system are managing this challenging situation and what can be done to further assist the farm community.”

A disaster designation makes farm operators in primary counties and those counties contiguous eligible to be considered for certain assistance from the FSA, provided eligibility requirements are met. This assistance includes emergency loans. Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of the disaster declaration to apply for emergency loans.

The Farm Service Agency considers each emergency loan application based on the extent of production losses on the farm, and the security and repayment ability of the operator. Local FSA offices can provide affected farmers with further information. The FSA fact sheet on the emergency loan options and additional assistance for drought-impacted farms can be found here. Contact information for the offices can be found here.

The Department will also tour affected farms in Western New York and the Southern Tier in the next week.  It will continue to work with its partners in monitoring the drought situation and its effect on New York farms in these and other counties across the State.  In addition, the State will work closely with Cornell University expert hydrologists and climate professors to help understand and study how farmers can mitigate the impacts of the impacts of future drought.

The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, along with its Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Farm Bureau, Cornell Cooperative Extension and the Cornell EDEN program, recommend that farmers affected by the drought should continue to document their conditions (pictures and video), and any losses. Farmers can also file a CCC- 576 (Notice of Loss) with their local USDA Farm Service Agency.

2016 Press Releases