Republican: Flooded farmers face $15 million in damages
Flooded farmers face $15 million in damages; Big E, CISA plan statewide relief effort
Ag boosters and community leaders — including the Big E — learned Tuesday that more than 75 Massachusetts farmers suffered flood damage or complete destruction to 2,000 acres of crops.
The losses from last week’s rain-driven flooding along the Connecticut River and its tributaries could reach $12 million to $15 million, said Eugene J. Cassidy, president and CEO of the Eastern States Exposition.
“Which is going to have an effect,” Cassidy said Tuesday. “These are businesses that have a payroll. Soup kitchens and food banks rely on this produce. I’m worried that we will move on to the next news cycle, and this will be forgotten.”
The Big E — which has always promoted agriculture as part of its mission — put up $10,000 toward relief efforts, Cassidy said.
“We always say, ‘No farmers, no food,’” he said. “We might see that.”
Tuesday, the Big E and groups including CISA — Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture — The Grinspoon Charitable Foundation (which offers Local Farmer Awards), the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts and others met to begin a coordinated fundraising effort and a means of getting aid out the door.
“The problem is so big, it requires a whole bunch of participants,” said Mark Gold, director of the Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation. “We understand we can’t provide it all. And we don’t believe we should be providing it all.”
Philanthropist Harold Grinspoon himself has pledged $50,000, Gold said. The foundation has partners, including Big Y Foods, and the Massachusetts Society for the Preservation of Agriculture already has a database of farmers.
“We’ve been standing with farmers for nine years, and we aren’t going to walk away from them now,” Gold said.
Megan Burke, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, said a coordinated effort is taking shape.
“I think all of us are trying to make sure we can pull together information like that in one place,” she said.
Executive Director Philip Korman said CISA has one applicant so far for its zero-interest Emergency Farm Fund. The fund provides loans to farms in the wake of extreme weather and is accepting applications for loans up to $25,000 for farms affected by the July floods or by damaging freezes earlier this year.
Donations are being accepted at CISA’s website, buylocalfood.org. Visitors to the site can also make donations.
He estimates it’ll take millions in private money on top of the state and federal funding to help farms get through this.
Local legislators are working through the state’s supplemental budget process.
And U.S. Sen Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., toured damaged farms this week with U.S. Rep. James McGovern, D-Worcester.
CISA’s Emergency Farm Fund grew out of the destruction of Tropical Storm Irene in 2011. Korman said climate change will make disasters more frequent.
“How do we get farmers back on their feet again to grow for our families?” he asked.