CISA reopening emergency fund to help farmers affected by bad weather

The Recorder, October 4, 2018, by Richie Davis

Tuesday’s rains were already adding to the season’s overabundance of rainfall as Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture announced that it is reopening its revolving Emergency Farm Fund to help Pioneer Valley farms affected by excessive rainfall this growing season, as well as other extreme weather events.

Rainfall totals in Hadley were 75 percent higher than average in July and August, CISA said in announcing the reopening of the fund that was first launched after Hurricane Irene in 2011

“Many growers have seen reduced yields and crop losses this year due to the unusually wet and rainy summer, which can put them into a difficult cash situation,” says Philip Korman, CISA’s executive director. “We hope these loans will offer farmers options for bridging financial gaps, investing in infrastructure that builds resilience, or preparing for the next growing season.”

The Emergency Farm Fund, which was provided by Whole Foods Market and Equity Trust in 2011, provides no-interest loans up to $10,000. The application period will be open until Oct. 31, with information available here.

The fund, Korman said, “is an important supplement to the public safety net provided by state and federal government programs. … (Its) small, no-interest, quick turnaround loans are able to provide assistance right away to help tide the farms over.”

The fund, which also provided assistance to farmers after storms caused collapse of greenhouses around the region in 2013 and farmers were hit in 2016 by a peach bud freeze as well as drought conditions.

This season, Korman said, “We started out with a dry June, and then it rained for three months. The rains have been dramatic and excessive,” depending on where farms are located, drainage conditions and what crops are being grown, yet programs that provide emergency assistance when a weather-related disaster is declared may not help in this case.

And sometimes, Korman added, there may be cash-flow problems in dealing with the increased disease pressures and added labor costs caused by excessive rain and humidity.

The fund, reopened three times since its creation, has provided a total of $221,000 in loans to 24 farms. The Fund is managed by CISA with the assistance of Equity Trust. The Loan Review Committee includes people with a variety of agricultural backgrounds, including farmers, CISA staff and board members, and representatives from Whole Foods Market, Equity Trust, and the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources.