Produce loss might be declared disaster

By Gus Bode

Farmers that suffered large crop losses may be eligible for federal aide if their county is declared a disaster area.

Some local peach growers lost 100 percent of their crop this year due to a sudden freeze in mid-April after a few weeks of warm weather. Other crops such as grapes and berries have also suffered large losses. If enough counties are determined to be disaster areas by a state committee, farmers can seek federal assistance.

Lowell Lenschow, a manager at Illinois Specialty Growers, said southern Illinois has lost almost all its peaches.


“Basically, the apple and peach crop is pretty well gone from about Calhoun County southward,” he said.

Lenschow also said the blueberry crops suffered large losses and the grape crop lost its first set of fruit for the season.

“The first set on the grapes is ruined, but there will be a secondary growth which has a potential of a small crop,” he said.

Daryl Meier, owner of Meier’s Vineyard, said some of his grape plants that were damaged by the cold front have recovered.

“Some of the buds that were partially damaged have come back to life,” he said. “Some of the buds that hadn’t opened up yet have opened up now.”

Although some plants are showing progress, Meier said he still didn’t know how much of his crop would be lost.

“Right now I just really don’t know,” he said. “I feel comfortable that I’m going to have at least half a crop, but I don’t know yet.”


Meier said his vineyard has about 1,100 plants and produces 12 to 15 tons of grapes a year.

Lenschow said the loss of crops means a loss of income for farmers. The income for 2007 has basically vanished, he said.

Lenschow said some farmers might have had federal crop insurance that could help alleviate the loss. He said the ISG is working to get federal disaster assistance for the fruit growers, but it’s a slow process.

“We’re trying to pursue federal disaster assistance for these fruit growers, but that remains to be seen if we can get that accomplished,” Lenschow said. “Congress has been debating disaster legislation for losses for the 2005-2006 crop year for the last year and half, and that legislation still has not passed. It’s a very slow process.”

Farm Service Agency officials are investigating the losses in each county and would report their findings to the FSA state committee, Lenschow said.

“Their state committee will look at these reports and then determine whether these counties will be declared a disaster area,” he said. “Once that happens, then those counties are eligible for federal disaster assistance if Congress passes the disaster assistance bill.”

Lenschow said he recommends farmers contact their senators and representatives to encourage them to sponsor an assistance bill.

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