Gov. urges Vermonters to report flood losses
WILLISTON — Standing with owner Lorenzo Whitcomb at the Whitcomb Farm, which has experienced crop-damaging flooding from over 20 inches of rain this season, Gov. Peter Shumlin and Agriculture Secretary Chuck Ross recently urged Vermont farmers to take steps now to document damage, explore planting options for late-season crops, and reach out for help and advice to salvage the season.
“We won’t know the overall impact of this wet weather until the end of the harvest season. But you only have to look around Lorenzo Whitcomb’s fields to understand that damage to Vermont farms is serious and extensive,” said Gov. Shumlin, joined by representatives from UVM Extension, the Farm Service Agency, and the Congressional delegation. “Everyone here today and the offices they represent are committed to doing everything possible to get our farmers the information and assistance available.”
The impact has been felt across virtually every aspect of Vermont agriculture, from vegetable and berry farmers with flooded crops, to dairy farmers who’ve lost significant corn silage, to meat producers, who’ve had to relocate animals due to flooded pastures.
“More than ever,” added Secretary Ross, “I urge Vermonters to support community farms by buying locally.”
Officials advise farmers to:
• Document damage now; take accurate records and photographs that could be useful in securing assistance.
• Report damage to their local USDA Farm Service Agency Office, which is collecting data on a daily basis to assess the weather’s impact on crops and land. The FSA will request an emergency disaster declaration — which would make loan assistance available — near the end of the harvest season if losses meet program thresholds. There are nine local FSA offices throughout Vermont.
• Reach out to their crop insurance agent.
• Farmers with coverage through the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) should contact local offices now to report crop losses and/or potential crop losses. NAP provides financial assistance of non-insurable crops when low yields, loss of inventory or prevented planting occur due to a natural disaster. NAP is a catastrophic level of coverage that pays benefits to enrolled producers suffering a greater than 50 percent loss of their historically established production level. The coverage is not meant to make a producer “whole” again, but to mitigate the effects of disastrous production and income losses.
• Those without coverage for 2013 should contact their local FSA office to inquire about coverage for 2014.
• Engage with organizations in place to offer assistance, including the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets; the University of Vermont Extension Service; and the Farm Service Agency. The Extension Service, for example, can provide information to farmers on how to treat waterlogged crops and on crop options for late-season planting in flood-impacted areas.
“Our farmers preserve our working landscape, create economic opportunity, and provide healthy, local foods to our communities,” said Ross. “We are here today, with our partners from UVM Extension, the Farm Service Agency, the Congressional delegation, and the governor’s office to acknowledge the critical role farming plays in our state, and the importance of supporting the agricultural community through this difficult time.”
The governor and Ross said Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) assistance may be available to help mitigate damages to crop land due to isolated disaster related events, although ECP does not cover crop losses. That ECP assistance has been requested for weather related weather-related losses this past May in Washington, Chittenden and Caledonia counties.
While constant rain has plagued farmers across the state, the individual impacts upon farms are as unique as the farms themselves. Location, soil composition, crop type, and farming practices are all factors. The Agency of Agriculture has heard from farmers in every region, citing a wide variety of weather-related struggles. Commonly reported issues include flooded and inaccessible fields, drowned crops, seeds that are too wet to germinate, soggy pastures, inaccessible fields and equipment damage.
Whitcomb Farm, a dairy operation that also grows corn silage and pumpkins, has experienced excessive field flooding. Monthly rainfall totals at the Williston farm were dramatic: 3 inches in April; 9.66 inches in May, and 9.71 inches in June. The problems caused by the volume of rain have been exacerbated by its intensity. Daily rainfall totals exceeded 1 inch on one day in April, four days in May, and three days in June. On May 23, the farm was hit with 3.21 inches, with 1.78 inches falling in a one-hour time period.
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