Vt. farmers struggle to salvage growing season - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vt. farmers struggle to salvage growing season

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WILLISTON, Vt. -

In a state that depends on dairy, the near constant downpours are the kiss of death for farmers, like Lorenzo Whitcomb, who are trying to salvage the growing season.

"What we are trying to do now is kind of maximize our yields on our good corn," Whitcomb said.

Whitcomb grows nearly 300 acres of corn on his Williston farm. But he says the recent rains washed necessary nitrogen from the root zone, damaging about one-sixth of the crop and completely killing 10 acres.

"They won't produce anything at all," he said.

To give you an idea of the amount of water some of these farmers have been dealing with here, they got 3 inches of rain in April and more than 9 inches in both May and June. To put that into perspective, the Amazon rainforest gets about 8 inches of rain each month.

"It just isn't fair," Vt. Agriculture Secretary Chuck Ross said. "I've been in this job now for 2.5 years and three summers in a row we've had weather challenges."

Ag officials and the governor recognize that farming is a tough industry and the wet weather is making their work even more of a challenge.

"We're here to do everything we can both state and federal to help make this bad situation hopefully a little bit better," said Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vermont.

Officials say they won't know the overall impact of the heavy rains until the end of the harvest season. For now, they're urging farmers to keep records, photograph their fields and report all damage to their local USDA farm service agency office. FSA will request an emergency disaster declaration, which would make loan money available in the coming months if the losses meet the program thresholds.

"If you are fortunate enough to have had insurance, crop insurance, reach out to your crop insurance agent. Get them involved," Shumlin advised.

Officials say the pain is not limited to Vermont's dairy operations either. Veggie and berry farmers are dealing with flooded fields, as meat producers move their herds to drier pastures. But they say there is a simple way you can help.

"Now more than ever buy local," Ross said. "It helps on many levels. To step up and expend your dollars on Vermont farms."

And those farmers are keeping their fingers crossed and heads held high knowing there is not much they can do about the will of Mother Nature.

"You always, in this business, have to be optimistic," Whitcomb said. "This year, we just have to try a little bit harder to be optimistic."

The governor and ag officials did not talk about direct subsidies Thursday, but it has been done in the past. In the last decade Vermont farmers have received cash payments during tough economic times to a combined tune of about $12 million.

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