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Perdue seeks drought help

LAWRENCEVILLE - In response to agricultural damage caused by the recent drought, Gov. Sonny Perdue on Wednesday requested a disaster declaration from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for almost every Georgia county.

"Drought conditions have a serious economic impact on our agriculture industry," Perdue said in a statement. "Farmers and farming communities throughout the state are suffering due to the drought conditions that we are experiencing this year."

According to the governor's office, the Georgia USDA State Emergency Board reviewed damage assessments submitted by county emergency boards. Significant crop losses were reported by 155 out of 159 counties, including Gwinnett.

But some people involved in the Gwinnett farming community said there has not been significant damage, especially because there are not many farms left in the county.

Gwinnett Farm Bureau President Cecil Gober said droughts hurt mainly farmers with "row crops" such as corn and cotton.

"I don't know anyone in Gwinnett County that has a big enough operation to be hurt by the drought situation," he said.

Jim Dunigan said his family own about 40 acres of land in Lawrenceville. Although he hasn't lost any animals, he said he's lost some money buying hay because the grass in the pastures won't grow fast enough.

"I put fertilizer on it, but it doesn't help if you don't get any water," Dunigan said.

Kathy Parent of the Gwinnett Extension Service said Gwinnett is too urban to be significantly affected by the drought. Farms with livestock are less likely to be affected than crop farms, of which Gwinnett has fewer, she said.

If the disaster declaration is issued, farmers could apply for low-interest emergency loans from their local Farm Service Agency. The only counties that did not submit damage assessments are Fanning, Gilmer, Towns and Union counties.

A statewide level one drought was declared in June by Georgia Environmental Protection Division Director Carol Couch.

The U.S. Drought Monitor, a collaborative effort of several federal agencies, said most of Georgia is in a moderate to severe drought. Annual rainfall deficits in Georgia average between 6 and 9 inches, but can be as bad as 20 inches in some areas.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.