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Sen. Gillibrand calls on USDA to declare agriculture disasters in Lewis and St. Lawrence Counties due to flooding

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U.S. Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, D-N.Y., a member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to declare an agricultural disaster in Lewis and St. Lawrence counties because of severe flooding.

Sen. Gillibrand sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Thomas J. Vilsack asking him to grant the disaster declarations for the two counties, where high water levels are destroying roads and bridges, isolating dairy farms and damaging feed, bunker silos and wells.

The flooding led St. Lawrence County Legislature Chairman Jonathan S. Putney to declare a state of emergency Tuesday afternoon.

Robert G. Andrews, chairman of the St. Lawrence County Agriculture and Farmland Protection Board and of the Soil & Water Conservation District, said farms have been suffering.

“When you have barns that are flooded with the amount of standing water they’ve been getting, farmers have to get the animals out,” he said. “If that’s not a state of emergency, I don’t know what is.”

County Director of the Farm Service Agency Clark A. Putman said the agency has not heard from any farmers in trouble with flooding, but farmland will be more affected than livestock. He said most of the county’s farms are away from the flooded rivers.

“There may be acres of land under water, but we won’t know the extent of the damage until the water recedes, which it hasn’t yet,” he said. “The effect on agriculture will be minimal compared to the effect on roads and bridges.”

Declaring an agricultural disaster can release federal resources that provide a range of assistance to farmers, including low-interest emergency loans, technical assistance to repair damage and help to replenish lost livestock, according to a news release about the senator’s letter.

“We need these federal resources on the ground without delay so we can help our farms recover and support our economy,” Sen. Gillibrand said in the release.

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