July 21, 2023

Warren, Markey, McGovern, Neal Urge Agriculture Secretary to Designate Flood-Stricken Counties as Disaster Areas after Western Massachusetts Farms Sustain Heavy Losses

Farmers across the region urgently need financial assistance and guidance to access available resources to aid in the recovery process.

Text of Letter (pdf)

Boston, MA - United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Congressmen Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) and Richard Neal (D-Mass.) sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Thomas J. Vilsack and Farm Service Agency Administrator Zach Ducheneaux regarding the recent storms and floods in Massachusetts and urging the agency to act quickly to provide emergency assistance to support local recovery efforts in Massachusetts communities. 

“In light of the profound harm to the farming community, we request that you use the full authority of the Department of Agriculture to assist the farmers and community members who have been impacted by this disaster in Western Massachusetts. Specifically, we ask that FSA quickly request, and that Secretary Vilsack rapidly approve, a designation of the impacted counties as disaster areas. Doing so will allow affected farmers in these communities to quickly access funds, including FSA’s Emergency Loan program and other FSA assistance programs, for flood clean up and to address damage from erosion,” the lawmakers wrote.

The relentless flooding this month caused “worst-case scenario” damage, affecting at least 75 farms, destroying over 1,000 acres of crops, and creating possibly $10 million in crop loss, with the potential for more long-term damage. The flooding occurred just as the crops were ready to be harvested, exacerbating the damage. Mike Antonellis, who farms in Deerfield and Adams, initially estimated that he had lost as much as 90 percent of his crop to the flood, translating to around $400,000 in losses, or about half of his annual revenue. Farmers across the region have indicated that they urgently need financial assistance and guidance on how to access available resources to aid in the recovery process. 

“In order to rapidly assist farmers and communities in need, we ask that you expeditiously process and approve the request and engage in public outreach, including ensuring that FSA, Natural Resource Conservation Services, and Rural Development staff engage directly with affected farmers and communities, and that USDA enable a dedicated public website and community forums to ensure that affected communities in Massachusetts are aware of the help available to them,” the lawmakers continued. 

The lawmakers are requesting that USDA officials provide them with a staff-level briefing on the status of the disaster declaration, available assistance, and outreach efforts by July 28, 2023.