MassLive: CISA opens low-interest loan fund for flood-hit farmers

CISA opens low-interest loan fund for flood-hit farmers

Farmers devastated by this week’s flooding, or who suffered losses to fruit crops in two cold snaps earlier this year, can access a low-interest loan fund to keep their businesses going.

CISA – Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture – opened its loan fund Thursday with an updated application. The fund offers farms in Hampden, Hampshire and Franklin counties zero-interest loans up to $25,000 to meet expenses.

Flooding was the third natural disaster this year for farms in the region, following a frost in May that damaged buds for blueberries, apples and other fruit and a February deep-freeze that destroyed the peach crop across all of the Northeast.

Flood damage assessments are ongoing, but Vermont agriculture officials said losses there could be in the millions.

“This year, we have already seen three major weather events that have wreaked havoc on local farms,” said Philip Korman, CISA’s executive director.

“As weather patterns shift and extreme weather becomes more common due to climate change, CISA’s Emergency Farm Fund is here to provide zero-interest, quick-response loans to help farmers make it through so they can keep farming,” he said. “We’re grateful to our partners and to the many members of our community who have donated to the fund so that we can be there when farms need this kind of emergency support.”

CISA said it will review applications starting Aug. 1. Applications will be accepted until Oct. 1. Application information can be found at Donations to the fund are welcome and can be made at

Connecticut River at floodstage

Water can be seen bubbling up as floodwaters consume crops along Aqua Vitae Road in Hadley on Tuesday. (Don Treeger / The Republican) 7/11/2023

Since the Emergency Farm Fund was established in response to Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, CISA has provided nearly $500,000 to 54 farms. The fund is managed by CISA. Loans are administered jointly by CISA and the Franklin County CDC, according to a news release.

The Loan Review Committee includes people with a variety of agricultural backgrounds, including representatives from CISA, the Franklin County CDC/Pioneer Valley Grows Investment Fund, Equity Trust, the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, and farmers, according to a release.

John Waite, executive director of the Franklin County CDC, praised the quick response by farming groups and legislators. He said the loan fund gets help out quickly and “fills a vital gap in the safety net that is available to farms in the wake of such emergencies.”

Heavy rains early in the week sent the Connecticut River and its tributaries six or more feet over their banks, inundating low-lying fields of rich bottomland — in some cases just as crops were ready to harvest.

Due to food safety rules, any foodstuff that was touched by floodwaters was left unsafe to eat.

Also eligible for the loan fund are fruit farmers who lost crops to cold snaps earlier in the year. In February, a deep freeze damaged peach buds across the Northeast, meaning there’ll be no crop this year. Also, frost in May damaged apple, blueberry and strawberry buds in some areas.

CISA called on people this week to support local farms by buying their produce and, if possible, contributing to fundraisers for impacted farms.

The group also drew its members’ attention to the role of climate change and how farms can mitigate the toll of extreme weather.