Scott requests USDA disaster declaration for May freeze that caused heavy crop damage

Some farmers report up to 95% crop losses; damage in Vermont could surpass $10 million

MONTPELIER — Citing “extensive and pervasive” damage to crops, Gov. Phil Scott is requesting that the U.S. Department of Agriculture issue a disaster declaration because temperatures plunged into the low 20s across Vermont for hours in mid-May, freezing vulnerable young buds on thousands of fruits.

In a letter sent to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on June 19, Scott described the “debilitating damage” to crops of apples, grapes, blueberries, peaches and other stone fruit across the state. He asked that a federal disaster be declared in all of Vermont's 14 counties, which would open up financial assistance and low-interest USDA loans to eligible farmers.

Some Vermont farmers have reported up to 95% crop losses from the freeze, and numerous horticultural experts and farmers have said it's the worst damage they've ever seen. State leaders estimate total losses could surpass $10 million.

The financial devastation is particularly acute for the many farmers who do not have crop insurance. And those who do are often underinsured for losses of this magnitude.

Scott's letter is Vermont's second nudge to the federal government asking for help.

Anson Tebbetts, the state's secretary of agriculture food and markets, penned a letter to Vilsack earlier in June, and collected signatures from his fellow agriculture secretaries in Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.

“Collectively, we sit at a critical crossroad with our growers. Right now, growers are assessing their ability to stay in this industry,” the secretaries wrote. “Without aid, we will see devastating blows to local economies because of downsizing and closing businesses.”

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