Upton Requests Disaster Assistance for Michigan Farmers
Southwest Michigan fruit farmers face worst losses in recent history – Upton recently toured local farms and met with area growers concerning the disaster
Jun 8, 2012 -
Congressman Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) joined 11 other members of Michigan’s congressional delegation in urging U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack to issue a disaster declaration for Michigan 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. Two weeks ago, Upton met with dozens of southwest Michigan growers and got a firsthand look at the devastation, which in many cases completely decimated local apple, cherry, juice grape, and peach crops.
The bipartisan delegation letter follows a formal request from Michigan Governor Rick Snyder to Secretary Vilsack for a USDA disaster designation that would extend to 72 Michigan counties, including Allegan, Berrien, Cass, Kalamazoo, St. Joseph, and Van Buren counties. The USDA ultimately grants a federal disaster designation request on a county-by-county basis, based on whether the USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) determines that a particular county has met the 30 percent crop loss threshold. If granted a disaster designation, the farmers of that county who personally meet the 30 percent threshold are then eligible for low-interest loans through USDA.
The full text of the letter to Secretary Vilsack is below:
The Honorable Tom Vilsack
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Avenue, Southwest
Washington, D.C. 20250
Dear Secretary Vilsack:
We are writing in support of the state of Michigan’s request for federal disaster assistance for farmers in Michigan who are facing significant crop losses due to extreme weather conditions in the winter and spring of 2012.
A series of unprecedented weather events impacting the Lower and Upper Peninsulas of Michigan have resulted in the worst fruit crop many farmers have faced in their lifetimes. Seventy-two counties throughout our state experienced severe weather, most notably damaging frost but also excessive snow, blizzards, high winds, hail, tornadoes, flooding, and excessive rain. Estimates indicate that more than 90 percent of Michigan’s apple, cherry, and peach crops have been lost. More than 85 percent of the juice grape crop has been lost, and as much as 10 percent of the asparagus crop has been lost or damaged. We estimate that the economic loss to fruit and asparagus crops alone will exceed $220 million.
This drastic reduction in crop yields will pose significant financial hardships for Michigan farmers and their families, as well as the permanent and seasonal workers employed by these operations. Supporting industries such as agricultural manufacturing and processing, chemical and fertilizer retailers, and equipment rental, sales and repair will similarly suffer.
A USDA disaster declaration in Michigan will provide farmers the necessary option of applying for emergency loans through the Farm Service Agency. For many farmers, this lifeline will be essential to their ability to meet financial obligations. Emergency loans are vital to farmers who may have no other source of revenue over the next fifteen to eighteen months.
We urge your full and expeditious consideration of the state’s request, and look forward to working with the Department in the coming weeks and months to provide much-need relief for struggling Michigan farmers.
Representative Dan Benishek
Representative Dave Camp
Representative Hansen Clarke
Representative John Conyers,Jr.
Representative John Dingell
Representative Bill Huizenga
Representative Sander Levin
Representative Thaddeus McCotter
Representative Candice Miller
Representative Mike Rogers
Representative Fred Upton
Representative Tim Walberg
Click here to view the joint letter to Secretary Vilsack