N.J. farmers to seek federal drought assistance

    Thanksgiving is a busy time for Ann and Bill Fox’s 20-acre cranberry farm.

    But this year year is a tough one, Ann Fox said, because the summer drought nearly destroyed their crop. Some vines completely died off and the ones that grew were small.

    To help the Foxes and other farmers like them, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is offering low-interest loans.

    Fox plans to look into the assistance. The farm had to drop its price per pound because the drought reduced the size of their berries. A creek that usually provided irrigation all but disappeared.

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    “The water level dropped considerably in the ground and we have a reservoir and my husband in all his years has never seen it, it was just mud,” she said. “There was no water to be pumped.”

    Bill Nardelli’s Cumberland farm was also hit hard. He says production was way down on his several-hundred-acre farm. Some plants never even budded.

    But Nardelli says he’s lucky. His large farm is equipped with an irrigation system which preserved most of the vegetables. Still, the assistance will help smaller farmers, he said.

    “We want to keep New Jersey green and not only preserve the farm land here, but we want to preserve the farmer,” he said.

    All counties except Bergen and Hudson are eligible for the federal help. Farmers have eight months to apply.

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