$15 million in natural disaster recovery funds available for impacted farmers, Healey says

BOSTON — Massachusetts farmers who were adversely affected by extreme weather events this year can now tap into $15 million in natural disaster funds, the governor said Wednesday.

The funding from the Natural Disaster Recovery Program for Agriculture will provide financial relief to farmers impacted by the February freeze, May frost, and July floods so they can recover and rebuild their growing operations, Gov. Maura Healey said in a statement.

“The climate crisis is here and farmers are bearing the brunt of extreme weather. With the heavy losses that our farmers have recently suffered, it is critical for us to support their recovery efforts,” Healey said. “These funds will help ensure our farms have the resources to salvage a difficult year and come back stronger than before. We’re grateful to the Legislature for making these funds available to support our hardworking farmers.”

In early February, an arctic freeze plunged temperatures to subzero digits causing total damage to the stone fruit crop in Massachusetts, wiping out this year’s peaches and plums, Healey said. In May, a series of frost events when the temperature dipped below freezing on multiple nights caused severe damage to many fruit crops including apples, pears, and grapes. In July, unprecedented rainfall caused catastrophic flooding in Western and Central Massachusetts impacting more than 2,700 acres of crops at more than 110 farms across the region.

“Our farms are key economic drivers in their local communities, contributing so much more than just the food and produce they grow,” Lt. Governor Kim Driscoll said in a statement. “A strong agricultural sector ensures job security, environmental resilience, and a robust local food system. It’s essential that our affected farmers receive the aid they need in order to ensure their future production capacity won’t be diminished by the recent natural disasters.”

To be eligible to apply for these funds, a farm must be a commercial operation selling products to wholesale or direct to consumer markets and have suffered at least a 15 percent acreage crop loss from one or more of the three natural disasters in 2023.

“As evidenced by this year’s extreme weather events, climate change has caused overwhelming damage to our agricultural production in Massachusetts,” Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rebecca Tepper said in a statement. “This crisis underscores the importance of investments in resiliency and climate-smart agricultural practices, but we must also provide immediate relief to those who have been severely impacted by the effects of these recent natural disasters. This investment in our farmers provides a much-needed lifeline to allow them to survive through this challenging growing season.”

State legislators said the funds will help farmers whose livelihoods were devastated by severe weather.

“This funding will not only help farmers recover from devastating weather events, it will also protect the services that they provide for Massachusetts families, along with the vital role that they play in the Commonwealth’s economy,” House Speaker Ronald Mariano said in a statement. “I encourage those affected to apply for the available funds, and I would like to thank the Healey-Driscoll Administration, and my colleagues in the House and the Senate, for approving this critical support.”

“This critical funding stream will provide direct payments to farmers to cover losses, helping them to recover and remain a strong part of the local economy and our food system,” State Representative Natalie Blais said in a statement.

Applications are available now and must be submitted through this online form and received by 4:00PM on Friday, September 29, 2023.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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