BISMARCK — Gov. Doug Burgum announced Friday, Nov. 1, an appeal to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue for disaster designations in 47 of 53 North Dakota counties. If granted, the move would free up federal aid to farmers who experienced significant flood-related crop losses during the unusually wet summer and fall.

During an appearance in Fargo, where state and local officials met with a top federal official to press the need for continued support for the flood diversion project, Burgum said the tally of losses so far has reached $428 million, and the figure is rising.

"Billions of dollars of crops remain unharvested," the governor said.

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., also present for the diversion meeting, said the congressional delegation joined in urging Perdue to grant the agriculture disaster declaration. Hoeven noted the October blizzard and excess moisture plaguing farmers and ranchers throughout the state.

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"These natural disasters are compounding an already challenging time for our farmers and ranchers," he said. Producers in counties with an approved secretarial disaster designation will be automatically eligible for disaster assistance under the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus, he said.

In his announcing the agriculture disaster declaration, Burgum said, “Secretary Perdue has been very responsive and understanding of the extremely difficult situation facing our ag producers, and we appreciate his consideration of a disaster designation to help them through these stressful times.

Gov. Doug Burgum listens to a speaker during a meeting on Monday, Oct. 21, in Grand Forks. (Sydney Mook/Grand Forks Herald)
Gov. Doug Burgum listens to a speaker during a meeting on Monday, Oct. 21, in Grand Forks. (Sydney Mook/Grand Forks Herald)

To qualify for the designation, a county must have experienced at least 30% loss of one crop due to flooding, and 45 counties met this threshold, according to a news release. Another two counties, Morton and Billings, are also eligible for the designation "because of the inability to secure commercial financing to cover losses," the release said.

The six counties not included in the request — Barnes, Burleigh, Dickey, Logan, McLean and Richland counties — are requesting a deferral from Perdue to determine if crop losses meet the threshold.

Burgum signed an order declaring a statewide flood emergency Monday, Oct. 21. An additional 22 counties and six cities, including West Fargo, Jamestown and Grand Forks, have independently declared flooding emergencies.