Hurricane Irene Takes Toll on Connecticut Farms

Posted by Ken Liebeskind

We’ve seen the damage done to so many homes as a result of hurricane Irene. But it wasn’t until recently when I visited an area farm to buy produce that I learned how crops were impacted. Kevin Bassette, owner of Killam & Bassette Farmstead in South Glastonbury, CT told New England Post, “I wasn’t worried about the hurricane. It was the 8 to 12 inches of rain that was going to go all the way to Vermont that destroyed my last seven acres of corn, peppers, green and yellow squash, pickles, cucumbers, tobacco and mush melons.” The farm adjoins the Connecticut River, which overflowed from Hurricane Irene, devastating much of Bassette’s and many other Connecticut farms.

The Connecticut Department of Agriculture and the Farm Service Agency, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture that has offices in Connecticut counties, is compiling data to estimate the damages.

Bassette estimated his losses to be $80,000 but the state-wide total hasn’t been compiled yet, according to Marsha Jette, the state executive director of the Farm Service Agency. “There have been reports in the tens of millions, but we’re still compiling the data from producers. We’ll have good figures once harvesting is completed.”

Jette said the situation is very discouraging because of the variety of damage done to farms around the state, especially the corn crop.

Connecticut is renowned for its sweet corn but much of it was destroyed by the storm. “Sweet corn doesn’t withstand winds and we had heavy winds east of the Connecticut River,” Jette said. “ Winds knocked down a lot of the corn that usually goes to October 1 but once it’s uprooted you can’t do much about it. Heavy rains west of the river with lots of flooding caused more damage to corn. Some of it was under water and flattened in heavier soils.”

George Krivda, legislative program manager at the Connecticut Department of Agriculture said 40-60 percent of the state’s sweet corn crop was destroyed.

Rain also caused damage to pumpkins that were sitting in the water and rotting on one side. Krivda said all vegetable crops that are low lying near the rivers were flooded.

Power losses from the hurricane also impacted farmers. “In the eastern part of the state in Windham County they were without power for 10 days, so it hurt orchards, which have refrigeration,” Jette said. Dairy farmers were impacted if barns went down and they might have had to dump milk if the trucks couldn’t pick it up.”

“A lot of things have been impacted,” she said. After the storm, farmers were ordered by the state not to sell any crops that had been damaged by the storm. “Any vegetables submerged in flood waters can’t be used because of the contamination of the waters,” Krivda said.

Bassette said he would never harvest any of the damaged crops. “All you need is someone getting e-coli and you can kiss the farm goodbye,” he said.

Meanwhile, the data the Farm Service Agency collects on each farm, based on the acreage data it has, may to be used to apply for low interest loans from the Department of Agriculture. They may qualify for the loans but the first 30 percent of their losses aren’t covered by the program, Jette said.

“They can come in let the county know what they lost and what they ended up with to see if they qualify for payment, but they have to eat the first 30 percent,” she said.

Bassette is dissatisfied with all government assistance programs. “You have to show them where you planted everything and they file it and if you have a claim you have to show them what you lost and where you lost it,” he said. “I won’t see any money on that. I don’t have time to apply for FEMA because with due process it will take two years to see any money and I have bills to pay before that.”

To replace his damaged corn he could go out and buy corn from other farmers to sell it. “But I won’t go out and buy corn now because most sweet corn got blown over and you’ll find worms in it now.”

Related posts:

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  3. Hurricane History Repeating Itself In New England? A Look Back At Irene’s Most Ferocious Forbearers
  4. Irene Hits Connecticut Hard; Kills 2 People, Brings Floods, Outages {Video}
  5. About 70,000 Without Power in Conn. Ahead of Irene

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Posted by Ken Liebeskind on Sep 22 2011. Filed under Featured - For home page featured article, General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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