Federal Disaster Declaration Would Help Local Farmers

A frost in early April destroyed an estimated 10,000 acres of Southwest Michigan grapes, approximately 95-percent of the region’s total grape crop. As a result, it is projected that grape farmers will lose more than $20 million for the 2012 season.

I sponsored a Senate resolution urging President Obama to help these farmers financially recover from this devastation by declaring the Southwest Michigan fruit-growing region a disaster area.

The declaration would allow our hard-hit fruit and vegetable growers access to low-interest loans and other federal assistance.

In 2010, Michigan produced 36,000 tons of grapes with a net value of $15.4 million. Southwest Michigan grapes are used for juice and wine production around the country.

Welch’s Foods relies on Michigan growers for 17 percent of its grape supplies for its juice production. The company said the frost was the most devastating in Michigan history, and a Welch’s surveyor called it a “complete wipeout.”

Warm temperatures in 2012 wreaked havoc on the state’s grape, apple and other crops. The early warmth caused plants to sprout prematurely, putting them at risk of damage when devastating frost occurred.

This disaster has negatively impacted the approximately one million residents who work in Michigan’s agriculture industry, which brings in about $64 billion a year.

These crops represent a livelihood for the many families who rely on the state’s 50,000 farms. The declaration would be a way of stepping up and helping our local farmers survive a natural disaster as well as the thousands of Michigan families and workers who depend on them.

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