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Bedford leaders look to deem county a ‘disaster area’ after drought impacts crops

Supervisors are now asking the governor to seek a declaration on their behalf

The goal is to help the county's farmers.
The goal is to help the county's farmers.

BEDFORD COUNTY, Va. – Rodney Ferguson planted his soybean field back in May. By now the crops should be waist-high.

“This is one of the worst droughts we’ve had due to the heat we’ve had, being in the 90s so many days and so hot at night,” said Ferguson, a Bedford County farmer.

The summer scorchers have severely impacted his 1,300 acres.

“I’ve probably lost somewhere around $50,000 to $75,000, depending on how good my corn crop is,” explained Ferguson.

Now, Bedford County leaders are stepping in to help farmers like Ferguson.

The Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution on Monday to consider the region a ‘disaster area.’

Scott Baker, agricultural extension agent for Bedford County, said the area lost about 50 to 60% of its crops this year.

“While we have had recent rains, a lot of the damage to our agricultural commodities has already occurred. It occurred back in June, July, and early August when we had extended dry periods,” said Baker.

The September 13 resolution sends the request to Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam.

“Basically what that does is that asks the governor to seek that disaster declaration on Bedford’s behalf. So, this kind of starts the clock,” said Baker.

The clock is ticking because Ferguson said it could impact the months ahead.

“We can’t even get our fall planting done because the ground is so hard,” said Ferguson.

If granted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the declaration would allow farmers to seek low-interest emergency loans on a case-by-case basis, but county leaders believe a final decision is still months away.

About the Author:

Tim Harfmann joined the 10 News team in September 2020 and works at the station's Lynchburg bureau.