Cecil Gogan, the nephew of David Bartlett, steers the tractor pulling the potato harvester alongside one of Bartlett Farms' potato fields. Credit: Alexander MacDougall / Houlton Pioneer Times

Farmers in 15 of Maine’s 16 counties qualify for disaster relief assistance due to this summer’s brutal drought.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s drought disaster designation allows farmers to apply for loans that will pay their production costs, essential living expenses, reorganize their farms, refinance debts or replace essential property for the year, according to a statement released by Maine’s senators and congress members.

This summer was the first in nearly 20 years that the entire state suffered drought conditions. Aroostook, York and Cumberland counties were in extreme drought. Other counties suffered moderate to severe drought that left wells running dry, algae blooms on ponds and lakes and more.

Farmers were especially challenged. September estimates placed the state’s iconic wild blueberry crop as producing just half of its five year 84 million pound average.

All but Knox County was designated as drought disaster areas.

Aroostook County was designated a disaster area in September. This summer was among the driest on record for The County, due to low soil moisture, lack of rainfall, drying vegetation and low stream flows.

Farmers have eight months to seek loans from USDA or other federal agencies.

Correction: Due to an omission by federal officials, a previous version of the story failed to list Hancock County as qualifying for aid.