For Immediate Release - October 13, 2010

Patrick-Murray Administration Secures Federal Relief for Massachusetts Farmers in Five Counties

BOSTON - Wednesday, October 13, 2010 - Governor Deval Patrick today announced that United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Thomas Vilsack has granted the Commonwealth's request for federal disaster relief in five Massachusetts counties that suffered agricultural production losses due to unseasonably cold weather last spring.

Farms in Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden, and Hampshire counties, which were declared primary natural disaster areas, are now eligible for loans and other assistance from the United States Farm Services Agency (FSA), provided that individual farms meet eligibility requirements. In addition, farms in Worcester County, which was declared a contiguous disaster area, are also eligible for loan assistance.

"Thanks to Secretary Vilsack for granting this disaster declaration, which will give Massachusetts farmers affected by cold weather last spring access to loans and other assistance they need to get through the season," said Governor Deval Patrick. "I would also like to thank members of our Congressional delegation for their support of the Commonwealth's farmers."

Governor Patrick sent a letter on August 10, 2010, to Secretary Vilsack requesting the disaster designation.

"In keeping with Governor Patrick's support of Massachusetts agriculture, farmers across the state will now have access to resources that will help them recover from the damaging effects of last spring's unusual weather pattern," said Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Ian Bowles.

"I am very pleased that the USDA has made disaster assistance available to farmers in Western Mass affected by the unseasonable weather this past spring. Our farms play a significant role in the Massachusetts economy and this assistance will allow farmers to survive these crop losses and save jobs," said Congressman John Olver.

Between April 28 and May 17, farmers in the five counties had crop losses due to unseasonably late frost and freeze. The crops affected with crop damage included asparagus, strawberries, blueberries and cherries. Farms predicted seasonal production decreases of at least 30 percent. The Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR) continues to work with the University of Massachusetts Amherst and with USDA officials to monitor the amount of damage to crop output this season. Actual crop loss assessments are expected later this year.

"For the agricultural industry, which is a significant part of the economic fabric of Massachusetts, this assistance can save jobs and secure the future operations for many of our farms affected by this year's unseasonable cold weather," said DAR Commissioner Scott Soares. "I appreciate the support of Governor Patrick and our Congressional leaders for supporting this designation to protect our farms."

The FSA will consider each farm's application based on the extent of losses, security available and repayment ability. Local FSA offices can provide affected farmers with further information regarding available assistance.

FSA disaster assistance program information

 

DAR's mission is to ensure the long-term viability of local agriculture in Massachusetts. Through its four divisions - Agricultural Development, Animal Health, Crop and Pest Services, and Technical Assistance - DAR strives to support, regulate and enhance the Commonwealth's agricultural community, working to promote economically and environmentally sound food safety and animal health measures, and fulfill agriculture's role in energy conservation and production. For more information, visit DAR's website at www.mass.gov/agr, and/or follow us at http://twitter.com/MDARCommish. For your gateway to locally grown products, specialty foods, and fun ag-tivities go to www.mass.gov/massgrown.

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