The U.S. Department of Agriculture has issued a drought-related disaster declaration for all counties in the state of Rhode Island. The announcement means Rhode Island farmers affected by the ongoing drought can now apply for federal emergency assistance. 

“There’s a plethora of things there that only become eligible during a disaster declaration,” Ken Ayars, chief of the Division of Agriculture and Forestry for the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, said in an interview last week. “Farm programs that might help farmers out with emergency watering, or providing feed if they lack feed, or reimbursement for crop losses, et cetera.”

The U.S. Drought Monitor said last week that nearly all of Rhode Island has reached extreme drought status, the second most severe classification.

“This prolonged drought has been tough on many Rhode Island farmers, harming the yield and quality of crops,” U.S. Sen. Jack Reed said in a news release announcing the declaration. “This federal declaration is good news for the state and should help mitigate some of the production losses local farmers are facing.”

Reed’s office said farmers and agricultural producers have eight months to apply for emergency loans. More information can be found at the Rhode Island page of the Farm Service Agency's website. 

Alex Nunes can be reached at anunes@thepublicsradio.org