St. Joseph, MI,
Congressman Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) applauded yesterday’s disaster declaration by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack for southwest Michigan fruit farmers who are facing one of the worst crop losses in decades. A mild winter followed by unseasonably warm temperatures in March caused Michigan fruit trees to bud early, only to be wiped out by typical April freezes. Upton has met with growers from across the district and has received a firsthand look at the devastation wrought on a local farms this spring. The primary natural disaster designation extends to 72 Michigan counties, including Allegan, Berrien, Cass, Kalamazoo, St. Joseph, and Van Buren counties. Ten additional counties, including Calhoun County, were named as contiguous disaster counties.
“This announcement will help provide a critical lifeline for Michigan fruit growers who are facing the worst losses in memory,” said Upton. “I applaud both Governor Snyder and Secretary Vilsack for recognizing the urgency of this situation and responding accordingly. Our family farms in southwest Michigan play such an important role in our daily lives and in the local economy, so it is imperative they have the necessary support when disaster strikes. While today’s announcement is an important and welcome step, this historic disaster further underscores the urgency of passing a Farm Bill that accounts for the needs of our area’s specialty crop growers.”
Disaster designation requests originate with a state’s governor making a formal request to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture for a disaster designation. A USDA disaster designation makes farm operators in both primary and contiguous counties eligible to be considered for assistance from the Farm Service Agency (FSA) – such as FSA emergency loans – provided eligibility requirements are met. Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of a Secretarial disaster declaration to apply for low-interest emergency loan assistance. FSA will consider each application on its own merits, taking into account the extent of production losses, security available, and repayment ability.
Affected farmers should contact their local FSA office for further information.