Dr. Dan Benishek (MI-01) and other members of the Michigan Congressional Delegation sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack today requesting federal disaster assistance for the fruit crop damage in Northern Michigan.
"It is critical we take action to help our local farmers who were affected by the early spring freeze. I fear the damage done to these crops could cost Northern Michiganders their jobs. I am hopeful Secretary Vilsack will recognize the gravity of this situation and supply the needed assistance to our local farmers," said Dr. Benishek, a lifelong resident of Upper Michigan.
The request to Secretary Vilsack comes after hard late frosts across much of Northern Michigan significantly damaged cherries, apples, juice grapes, peaches and other fruit crops throughout Michigan's Lower Peninsula. Following mild winter months and unseasonably warm weather in March, a series of freezes in April wreaked havoc on the budding crops. According to the Michigan Farm Bureau, the estimated losses may be as high as $223.5 million this year.
"After touring several of these farms, it's clear this loss will be very hard on Northern Michigan's farming community and our state's economy. While "acts of God' like this are impossible to prevent, my office remains committed to being as helpful as possible for all the farms and families affected by this damage," added Dr. Benishek.
The letter states in part: "This drastic reduction in crop yields will pose significant financial hardships for Michigan farmers and their families, as well as the permanent and seasonal workers employed by these operations. Supporting industries such as agricultural manufacturing and processing, chemical and fertilizer retailers, and equipment rental, sales and repair will similarly suffer."
If the USDA accepts the state of Michigan's request for federal disaster assistance, Michigan farmers will be able to apply for emergency loans from the Farm Service Agency. The funding for this relief was previously allocated and does not represent any new federal spending. With these loans, area farmers will be able to meet their financial obligations and keep their business operational.
Representatives Bill Huizenga (MI-02), Dave Camp (MI-04), Fred Upton (MI-06), Tim Walberg (MI-07), Mike Rogers (MI-08), Candice Miller (MI-10), Thaddeus McCotter (MI-11), Sander Levin (MI-12) Hansen Clarke (MI-13), John Conyers, Jr. (MI-14) and John Dingell (MI-15) also signed the letter.