Montpelier, Vt. - Governor Phil Scott has requested that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) issue a disaster designation for the State of Vermont in response to significant frost in May that impacted Vermont farms.
On May 17-18, 2023, Vermont suffered a damaging freeze early in our growing season when temperatures dropped to below freezing in every region and plummeted to at least as low as 20 degrees. In his letter to USDA secretary Thomas Vilsack, Governor Scott wrote, “The hard frost destroyed fruit blossoms and damaged vines throughout the state. We anticipate severe crop losses.”
Dr. Terence Bradshaw, director of the University of Vermont’s Horticulture Research and Education Center, said it is the worst freeze damage he has observed in more than 25 years in the industry.
“The damage is extensive and pervasive, and we anticipate small pick-your-own farms may be particularly impacted,” wrote Governor Scott. “Unfortunately, most of Vermont's orchards and vineyards do not have crop insurance.”
This weather event went well beyond Vermont’s borders. The cold temperatures were felt across the Northeast from New Jersey to New York to Pennsylvania and all corners of New England. In addition to Governor Scott asking for the disaster declaration, agriculture secretaries, commissioners and directors around the northeast, including Vermont Secretary of Agriculture Anson Tebbetts, have written to USDA asking for additional aid.
In their letter they stated, “Collectively, we sit at a critical crossroad with our growers. Right now, growers are assessing their ability to stay in this industry. Unfortunately, many orchards, produce operations, and vineyards are either uninsured or under insured and insurance claims are unlikely to cover the total business loss from crop damage and reduced revenue from value-added products. Without aid, we will see devastating blows to local economies because of downsizing and closing businesses.”
The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets is encouraging all those who sustained losses to report their damages to their local Farm Services Agency office with USDA.
A Secretarial Disaster Designation would open the availability of financial assistance, including low-interest USDA Farm Service Agency emergency loans for eligible producers in the approved counties.