BOSTON /Massachusetts Newswire/ — Governor Deval Patrick today announced that United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack has granted the Commonwealth’s request for federal disaster relief in 12 Massachusetts counties that suffered agricultural production losses due to this summer’s abnormally cool and rainy weather. Farms in Berkshire, Bristol, Essex, Franklin, Hampden, Hampshire, Middlesex, Norfolk, Plymouth and Worcester counties, which were declared primary natural disaster areas, are now eligible for loans and other assistance from the FSA, provided that individual farms meet eligibility requirements. In addition, farms in Barnstable and Suffolk County, which were declared contiguous disaster areas, are eligible for FSA loan assistance.

“I am grateful to Secretary Vilsack for granting this disaster declaration, which will give Massachusetts farmers who were affected by the rainy and cool weather we suffered this summer access to loans and other assistance,” said Governor Deval Patrick. “I would also like to thank the members of our Congressional delegation for their support of the Commonwealth’s farmers during this difficult growing season.”

“Thanks to Governor Patrick’s quick response and priority on Massachusetts agriculture, farmers across the state will be able to recover from the devastating effects of this summer’s unusual weather pattern,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Ian Bowles.

“This is a lifeline for the thousands of farmers across Massachusetts who were walloped by this summer’s unseasonable temperatures and heavy rainfall. I’m grateful to Secretary Vilsack for answering our calls for help and providing our farmers with the relief they need to get back on their feet,” said US Senator John Kerry.

“I would like to thank Secretary Vilsack for granting the state’s request for disaster relief. The weather has caused significant hardship for Massachusetts farmers,” said US Representative Barney Frank. “This funding will help mitigate the losses they have suffered.”

“This is welcome news for the more than 500 farmers in the Fifth Congressional District and thousands of others across the state,” said US Representative Niki Tsongas. “I thank Governor Patrick and Secretary Vilsack for acting quickly on their behalf.”

“This summer’s unseasonable weather adversely impacted Massachusetts farmers and I am pleased to see that with Governor Patrick’s help, farmers across the state will now be eligible for federal assistance,” said U.S. Representative Stephen F. Lynch.

“This declaration is good news for Massachusetts, as it will make assistance available to our eligible farming communities who have been weathering a challenging growing season in this already tough economic climate,” said US Representative John F. Tierney. “I applaud Secretary Vilsack’s decision and urge impacted communities to take full advantage of these funds.”

Excessively wet and cool weather in May, June, and July have had a negative impact on growing conditions and production levels of many of the state’s major crops, including yellow corn, strawberries, tobacco, potatoes, and tomatoes. June 2009 was the second gloomiest June on record in Massachusetts since 1885, according to the Blue Hills Observatory in Canton. The cool and wet conditions created an ideal environment for destructive pathogens such as early blight, Septoria, and late blight. Heavy hail in Berkshire and Franklin County and flooding in Barnstable, Bristol, Essex, Middlesex, and Norfolk also harmed crops.

The state’s farms have seen losses ranging from 30 percent to 100 percent because of persistent inclement weather or disease. The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR) continues to work with the UMass Extension and with USDA officials to monitor the amount of damage to crop output this season.

“I thank Governor Patrick for his continued support of our Commonwealth’s agricultural interests,” said DAR Commissioner Scott Soares. “This favorable support of the Governor’s request for a secretarial disaster designation will provide additional important tools for our agricultural industry.”

The United States Farm Services Agency (FSA) will consider each farm’s application based on the extent of losses, security available, and repayment ability. Local FSA offices can provide affected farmers with further information regarding available assistance. More information on FSA loans.

DAR’s mission is to ensure the long-term viability of local agriculture in Massachusetts. Through its four divisions – Agricultural Development, Animal Health, Crop and Pest Services, and Technical Assistance – the DAR strives to support, regulate, and enhance the Commonwealth’s agricultural community, working to promote economically and environmentally sound food safety and animal health measures, and fulfill agriculture’s role in energy conservation and production.