On Monday, Governor Gretchen Whitmer applauded the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) designation of 43 Michigan counties as primary natural disaster areas, making assistance available to agriculture producers in those counties following adverse weather conditions.
“I am pleased the USDA responded to our request and I’m looking forward to the further assessment of those counties not included in this designation. This relief can’t come soon enough for our struggling farmers who endured tremendous hardship throughout this growing season,” said Governor Whitmer. “I am grateful to USDA and our Michigan delegation, especially our Senators, for the leadership they’ve taken as well to ensure our hardworking farmers receive the assistance and supports they need.”
“Michigan’s farmers were affected by everything from severe cold to historic rainfall events and early snowfall in 2019, which impacted both planting and harvest this year,” said Gary McDowell, director, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. “These extraordinary weather conditions had a devastating impact on our farming and agricultural community. I appreciate the continued support of USDA, our federal delegation and the Governor for Michigan farm families.”
The 43 primary counties included in this Secretarial Disaster Designation have been designated as such due to losses caused by excessive rain, flooding, flash flooding, and abnormally cold temperatures that occurred from March 1, 2019 through fall harvest. Counties in this designation include: Alger, Antrim, Benzie, Berrien, Cass, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Clinton, Delta, Dickinson, Eaton, Emmet, Genesee, Grand Traverse, Gratiot, Hillsdale, Huron, Ingham, Iron, Kalkaska, Lapeer, Leelanau, Lenawee, Livingston, Macomb, Manistee, Marquette, Mason, Menominee, Monroe, Muskegon, Oakland, Oceana, Otsego, Presque Isle, Roscommon, St. Clair, St. Joseph, Sanilac, Schoolcraft, Shiawassee, Washtenaw, and Wayne.
“This growing season has been historically difficult for Michigan’s agriculture industry. The Governor understands this and has worked hard to coordinate efforts to support Michigan farmers,” said Jim Byrum, president of the Michigan Agri-Business Association. “Her leadership and close coordination with the USDA secured this important designation for the state. While it won’t fix all the damage done, it’s an important step in the recovery process for Michigan agriculture.”
“This year is a humble reminder that despite the best-made plans, the weather often dictates our realities, which is frustrating because it’s simply beyond our control,” said president of Michigan Farm Bureau, Carl Bednarski. “We have been blessed, however, in a number of respects, with state and federal agencies as well as elected officials who have been exceptionally responsive to the needs of production agriculture due to weather-imposed emergencies. The many relief efforts, including the disaster declarations pursued by Gov. Whitmer, demonstrate what can be accomplished when those elected or hired to serve constituents focus on meeting the needs of their constituents.”
The USDA reports that a decision to designate Arenac, Barry, Bay, Branch, Clare, Gladwin, Ionia, Lake, Mecosta, Midland, Missaukee, Ogemaw, Osceola, Oscoda, Tuscola, Van Buren, and Wexford Counties as primary disaster areas has been deferred until the department can make a complete and accurate determination of production losses.
This Secretarial Disaster Designation makes farm operators eligible to be considered for certain types of assistance from the Farm Service Agency (FSA), including emergency loans and the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus (WHIP+). Producers should contact their local FSA office for additional information.
In June, Governor Whitmer sent a letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue to request a statewide Secretarial disaster designation. The request was followed by a bipartisan letter of support from Michigan’s Congressional delegation.