Delegate Stacey Plaskett is looking for federal relief for the drought stricken territory and seeking a disaster declaration, her office announced Friday.
The U.S. Virgin Islands has been under extreme drought conditions for several months, to the point where farmers are losing livestock and the V.I. Department of Agriculture’s water storage is being drained.Year-to-date rainfall stands at barely half the normal amount, while the last two months are at 10 to 12 percent of normal and falling fast. In the last two months, St. Thomas has received 1.38 inches of rain, almost five and a half inches less than normal, and St. Croix had 1.33 inches, almost four inches below normal, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. (See related Links Below)
In a statement, Plaskett said she was "deeply concerned about the impact the recent drought conditions is having in our community." She said she has been in contact with Farm Service Agency representatives for the Florida and Virgin Islands region and is working to identify sources of relief for local farmers.
Plaskett said the district representative for the Florida/Virgin Islands region will be traveling to the territory early next week to work on relief efforts with local farmers and others affected by the drought. Those efforts will hopefully help lead to a drought disaster declaration that could bring federal dollars to help local farmers, according to Plaskett.
"Through our efforts the FSA Representative will meet with farmers and discuss plans to advance the recommendation of a disaster declaration to the state level," she said.
Meanwhile, she said the FSA is also working on including the USVI in the U.S. Drought Monitor Map, which provides a summary of drought conditions across the United States and Puerto Rico. This data helps with making drought relief decisions.
"My office has also been in contact with Agriculture Commissioner Carlos Robles and local farmers to get a better understanding of the impact of the drought so that we can determine what emergency relief the territory is eligible for,” Plaskett said.