Disaster Zone Declared
It's been a rough few months in Florida's agriculture industry, with record cold weather damaging and destroying crops all over North Central Florida.
Now the US Department of Agriculture has officially declared 2/3 of the state a disaster zone. This designation could actually be good news for local farmers.
Every county in our viewing area is on the list for freeze damage, with 47 out of 67 counties in the state dealing with severe crop damage for either freeze or drought. The crop loss has brought higher prices at the grocery store and farmers markets, but those most affected might actually get some relief from the announcement.
Hemchan Barran said, "In total I would estimate we lose about $20 to 25 thousand in the fields and about $20 thousand that's invested in the green house."
Hemchan and Kumarie Barran own Kumarie's Organic Garden in Alachua. They lost 70 percent of their broccoli and cauliflower crop alone during the freeze. They also lost everything in their greenhouse in one night, when the waterline used to keep their plants safe, froze too.
Kumarie Barran said, "This was Christmas weekend freeze...did this." But some of their losses could be recovered because of the disaster area declaration.
Barton Wilder is an Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent with UF's Alachua County IFAS Extension office. He said, "These allow farmers to apply for low interest loans through the farms service agency...if they have crop insurance, as well as if they don't have crop insurance. There's also some crop disaster assistance available through the Farm Service Agency."
The crop disaster assistance only covers damages that occurred from November 5th through December 17th. The goal is to help Florida's farmers to recoup some of their losses and to move forward into the Spring.
Wilder said, "It does allow for federal assistance to the farmer, so it definitely will help them out. It won't solve all their problems, but it will give them a cushion."
The Barran's are happy to hear that there might be some help available, but are still coping with the affects of a difficult season.
Hemchan Barran said, "It did extensive damage to all the green leafy vegetables and we lost our green house." But even though Kumarie's Organic Garden has taken a hit, Barran is hopeful they can find a way to get by. He said, "Yeah we all look at the upside of stuff and Spring is coming...we'll be okay."
The window to apply for assistance through the Farm Services Agency is open until June 17th (http://offices.sc.egov.usda.gov/locator/app?state=fl&agency=fsa).
Also non-profit organization Florida Organic Growers will help any farmers with the paperwork free of charge (http://www.foginfo.org/).
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