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More Than 1,000 Acres of Crops Destroyed in Massachusetts by Storms, Floods

At least 75 farms were soaked and more than 1,000 acres of crops lost after heavy storms earlier this week in Western Massachusetts, state agriculture officials said Friday morning.

Torrential downpours blanketed much of New England, leading to dangerous flooding in Vermont and Western Massachusetts, where farmers reported widespread damage. Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources Commissioner Ahsley Randle said it is “absolutely heartbreaking” to see the devastation in Massachusetts.

“We have boots on the ground to get an accurate scope of the damage so we can continue working with our local, state, and federal partners in assisting our farmers who continue to face these challenges,” Randle said in a statement. “Despite these recent tragedies, we know our farmers are resilient, and we encourage consumers to continue supporting their local farms that support the communities they serve in so many ways.”

State officials were scheduled to visit farms in Deerfield, Florence, Hadley, Sunderland, and Whately “to complete assessments of impacted farms.” Randle met with 30 farmers in Deerfield, Hadley, Hatfield, and Northampton on Wednesday.

Randle asked farmers to share damage reports with her agency to evaluate the extent of the damage.

“Farmers are encouraged to contact MDAR Deputy Commissioner and Chief of Staff Alisha Bouchard at alisha.bouchard@mass.gov and Director of Produce Safety Michael Botelho at michael.botelho@mass.gov with a report,” the department said.

Flood warnings and watches were in effect Thursday for most of Massachusetts as the National Weather Service predicted more heavy rains.

The flood is another incident of extreme weather impacting farmers this year, the agricultural resources department said. Subzero temperatures in February destroyed crops, including peachers and other pitted fruits.

“Farmers were hit hard again in May when a late frost happened for three days, causing significant losses to blueberry, strawberry, and apple crops,” the agency said. “The results of these disasters threaten the local food system and will have negative repercussions on our local economy.”

A pair of Western Massachusetts state lawmakers unsuccessfully attempted to include millions in disaster relief funding for affected farmers and municipalities in a July spending bill the House passed Thursday.

Rep. Natalie Blais, a Sunderland Democrat, tried to earmark $20 million in the bill for an agricultural disaster relief fund “to provide direct assistance to farmers in the commonwealth who have suffered agricultural losses, financial losses, or property damage caused by an event of force majeure that occurred after Jan. 1, 2023,” the text of her amendment said.

But top House Democrats excluded it from the bill, along with another Blais amendment that would have directed $1 million to the Town of Colrain for storm-related damages on Jacksonville Road.

Legislators also decided against including $4 million in funding for storm-related emergency repairs for North Adams, Clarksburg, and Adams. Rep. John Barrett of North Adams filed the amendment to the spending bill.

Blais said it was impossible to put a definitive monetary cost to the damages associated with the story only two days afterward and with more rain in the forecast. Some farms, like Natural Roots in Conway, have turned to online fundraising to recover from the damages.

“We’ll continue to work with farmers to refine the financial losses and acres impacted in the days and weeks ahead,” Blais told the Herald. “But with climate change, we will continue to see more frequent and intense storm events. Farmers have not only battled drought and floods in recent years but earlier this year, fruit crops were lost due [to] … severe frost events.”

Source : BostonHerald