On August 16, 2023

Farmers report $12M in damage, survey finds

 

By Katy Savage

A new Vermont survey shows more than 200 farmers had damages totaling over  $12 million in the July flood. There was damage to  more than 18,000 acres. 

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets  sent out the survey  to understand the scale of the damage  throughout the state in early July. 

Around 205 farmers responded to the survey as of Aug. 15. Rutland County farmers sustained an estimated $391,000 and Windsor County farmers sustained around $1.1 million in damages,  according to the survey.  Addison County also saw significant losses, with farmers reporting around $2 million in damages. 

Greg Cox, the owner of the organic Boardman Hill Farm in West Rutland, said a lot of farmers are throwing out produce due to rot. He lost the majority of beets and carrots due to the wet weather and said the damage is “much worse” than it was during Tropical Storm Irene in 2011. 

“It has been a rough here this year I think for almost anyone,” Cox said.  

It’s been a month since the flood and Cox said he still can’t get machinery on his fields to replant crops he lost. 

  “This year, it just kept coming,” Cox said. “Mud is not the best environment for a lot of plants.”

Cox, who has been farming for more than 40 years, is still hoping he’ll be able to plant fall greens. But, he’s preparing for the future and wondering if this is the “new normal.”  

“Farmers are optimistic by nature — we have to be,” Cox said.

The Woodstock Farmers Market, a staple in Woodstock, has been closed due to significant flood damages, when the store was mostly underwater.  

The owner, Patrick Crowl plans to reopen mid-September and said the community has helped pitch in, raising $171,000 for Crowl’s recovery efforts. 

Crowl has been able to keep paying his staff with the extra funds.

“Your community funding is a critical component of our plan to keep the staff from having to lose benefits and wages by collecting unemployment. We have now funded two payrolls thanks to you,” Crowl wrote in an Aug. 11 blog post on his website.  

Meanwhile, state leaders are pushing for additional funding for flood victims.

Robert Bonnie, the Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture visited Vermont Aug. 14 to assess damage. He spoke to local farmers with Sens. Bernie Sanders and Peter Welch. 

“With the reality of climate change, we’re going to need some commonsense changes to federal programs that help ensure the success and longevity of our small and family farms, especially when it comes to flooding,” Welch said in a statement.

Farmers are also grappling with damage from a May frost event. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack approved Gov. Phil Scott’s request for a Secretarial Disaster Designation in response to the May event on July 21.

“Extreme weather events have impacted our farmers across the state this year, which will impact their ability to provide food to us all, not to mention the survival of their business,” Gov. Phil Scott said in a statement. 

According to the recent survey, most significant damage reported from the July flood  as of Aug. 15 was: 

Loss of crops meant for wholesale or retail markets 38%

Loss of crops meant for animal feed 35%

Damage to Soils or Land 20%

Damage to Infrastructure or Equipment 7%

Damage by county
 (highest to lowest): 

Addison County $2,056,955

Bennington County $2,005,000

Chittenden County $1,552,725

Lamoille County $1,287,300

Windsor County $1,101,225

Washington County $1,064,700

Caledonia County $971,963

Windham County $667,200

Orange County $442,611

Rutland County $391,000

Orleans County $334,025

Franklin County $289,000

Essex County $120,000.

The agriculture survey will remain open for farmers to submit their information until Aug. 28. So far, it indicates about 69% of farmers did not have crop insurance. 

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