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August 2, 2023

USDA makes federal help available to Mass. farmers

Photo | Courtesy of State House News Service Gov. Maura Healey speaks from a podium her office set up at Mountain View Farm in Easthampton, where she urged Bay Staters to donate to a new Farm Resiliency Fund to support those recovering from floods that damaged crops.

Bay State farmers whose crops were destroyed in recent floods can now apply for low-interest loans and refinance existing loans, after the U.S. Department of Agriculture designated parts of the state primary natural disaster areas on Tuesday.

The disaster declaration allows farms affected by excessive rain from July 9 through July 16 to get federal loan support, and to tap into the Emergency Conservation Program, a cost-sharing program for debris and clean-up costs related to natural disasters, according to a release from Gov. Maura Healey's office.

The seven Massachusetts counties designated as primary natural disaster areas are Berkshire, Bristol, Franklin, Hampden, Hampshire, Norfolk and Worcester. Contiguous counties are also eligible, including Dukes, Middlesex, Plymouth and Suffolk.

The state's Department of Agricultural Resources estimated that about 2,000 acres of crops worth at least $15 million were lost due to the mid-July flooding, affecting at least 75 Massachusetts farms.

Some of those farms will also see aid coming their way from the state, after lawmakers struck a deal late Monday night to send $20 million in flood relief to western Massachusetts. Healey signed the bill early Tuesday morning.

The governor also launched a fundraiser in July with the United Way aimed at raising private donations for farmers, dubbed the "Massachusetts Farm Resiliency Fund."

"This has had a disproportionate adverse impact on farmers in western Massachusetts and central Massachusetts, but to be clear with the people of Massachusetts, this is an issue that all 351 cities and towns own," Healey said at the time. "We have to see that in this experience, so much else is implicated and disrupted, particularly around food security, but also around economic development. We do not need our farmers, who provide so much and are such an important cog in our infrastructure, to go away, to disappear as a result of the severe financial distress that they're under." 

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