"Vomitoxin" disaster declared in 10 Md. counties
A fungal grain infestation caused by last spring's wet weather in Maryland was bad enough to earn a federal agricultural disaster declaration for 10 Maryland counties. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Thomas J. Vilsack approved the state's request for aid in a Nov. 13 letter to Gov. Martin O'Malley.
Wheat and barley crops planted here became infected with the Vomitoxin (deoxynivalenol toxin, or DON) during May and June. The toxin is produced by a fungus called "Fusarium head blight," and the contamination makes the grain unmarketable, and unusable as feed.
The North Dakota State University describes its impact this way: "Grain with DON would have to be ingested in very high amounts to pose a health risk to humans, but it can affect flavors in foods and processing performance. Human food products are restricted to a 1-ppm level established by the FDA. This level is considered safe for human consumption. The food industry often sets standards that are more restrictive. DON causes feed refusal and poor weight gain in some livestock if fed above the advisory levels."
Maryland Agriculture Secretary Buddy Hance said, "Farmers in the disaster designation areas experienced market value losses ranging from 30 to 55 percent."
The federal disaster declaration makes farmers in the primary designation areas, and all adjoining counties, eligible for "consideration" for assistance from the USDA Farm Service Agency.
The primary counties in the disaster declaration are Baltimore, Carroll, Cecil, Harford, Howard, Kent, Montgomery, Queen Anne's, Talbot and Washington.
BWI Marshall Airport recorded more than 9 inches of surplus rain during April, May and June. Since then, more than 3.5 additional inches of surplus rain have been added.
(SUN PHOTO/Glenn Fawcett 2008)