Tennessee requests declaration of agricultural disaster

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Gov. Phil Bredesen Tuesday requested an agricultural disaster declaration for six counties to provide loans to farmers whose crops have been severely damaged by the summer's extreme hot and dry conditions.

The governor asked U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns to declare a national disaster in Franklin, Fentress, McMinn, Meigs, Morgan and Scott counties.

Bredesen also said he would work with the state Department of Agriculture to identify any additional counties that needed assistance.

"Our hardworking farmers in these areas of East and Middle Tennessee have suffered substantial losses and need assistance to help them get through the growing season and to prepare for next year," Bredesen said in news release.

Inconsistent rainfall and high temperatures have reduced adequate soil moisture and stressed crops, causing farmers in the affected areas to report 50 percent to 80 percent losses in corn, soybean, hay and other crop yields.

In the latest crop report from the USDA, more than a third of pastures across the state are rated in poor to very poor condition, forcing many livestock producers to start using winter hay and feed supplies.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)