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CT seeks emergency declaration after severe mid-May frost kills fruit, Christmas trees, other crops

Mark Mirko
Connecticut Public
FILE: A mid-May frost that destroyed millions of dollars in crops has Governor Ned Lamont seeking a federal disaster relief for all eight of the state's counties.

Connecticut is seeking federal disaster relief for farmers after a late-season frost in mid-May.

The state Department of Agriculture said frost and sub-freezing temperatures on May 18 destroyed millions of dollars in crops. The frost primarily affected fruits, including apples, strawberries, blueberries and peaches, according to state officials. Christmas trees and nursery crops were also hit by the cold snap.

Gov. Ned Lamont is seeking a federal agricultural disaster declaration for all eight counties in Connecticut. Officials say some farms recorded temperatures in the mid- to low-20s that lasted up to five hours.

If the state’s request is approved, Connecticut farmers would be able to apply for emergency funding and loans to mitigate the financial impact of the frost. In order for the requests to be approved, the state and farmers must demonstrate that over 30% of a given crop in a given county was destroyed.

Connecticut Department of Agriculture commissioner Bryan Hurlburt said farmers told him they hadn’t experienced a frost like this in decades. But extreme weather has impacted farmers across the state for years. There have been emergency declaration requests every year since Hurlbert took office in 2019, he said.

Last year, farmers dealt with droughts. In 2021, flooding ravaged their crops.

Climate change will continue to make extreme weather conditions more likely, Hurlburt said. His department is trying to prepare for the worst.

“What the impact of climate change has been in Connecticut, for our farms, is that the weather patterns are longer and more intense,” Hurlburt said. “What we're trying to do is help producers implement practices, purchase equipment and become more knowledgeable as to how to manage these sorts of events.”

Hurlburt said the frost will likely reduce the amount of fruit available at farmers markets and could drive up prices.

“But I don't think it's going to be tremendously out of whack, compared to somebody's typical grocery shopping,” he said.

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