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USDA issues disaster declaration for Vermont following July flooding

 Flooded fields seen from above
Civil Air Patrol
Flooding from the Middlebury River, photographed from the air July 16.

The United States Department of Agriculture has issued a disaster declaration for all 14 counties in Vermont due to the July floods, which means farmers will be eligible for federal loans to cover flood-related losses.

Farmers have now self-reported more than $16 million in losses as a result of the July flooding.

More from Vermont Public: Vermont farmers say they need more gov't help as climate change causes more extreme weather

Vermont’s Secretary of Agriculture, Anson Tebbetts, acknowledged on Wednesday that the option of a loan — even at a 3.75% interest rate — may not look like an appealing option for agricultural operations that likely already have debt.

"Granted the first thing a farmer will tell is they don’t want to take on another loan, they don’t want to take on another debt, or more debt," Tebbetts said. "But I think it’s worth having a conversation with the Farm Service Agency. Farmers should reach out to them."

The Farm Service Agency is the entity that disburses USDA loans. Tebbetts says that agency is also available for financial counseling for farms, who may be able to refinance some debt they already have at a more favorable rate.

The disaster declaration is the second for Vermont this year, which was approved for federal aidafter severe frost in May.

More from Vermont Edition: Vermont farmers reckon with total crop loss following floods

The USDA isn’t the only place flood-hit farmers can apply for loans. The Center for an Agricultural Economy is offering zero-interest loans to farmers across the state through its Vermont Farm Fund.

Twelve farmers have applied for $165,000 in loans from the Center for an Agricultural Economy so far. But Jon Ramsay, executive director of the Hardwick-based nonprofit, said he anticipates more applications once farmers are able to assess the extent of their losses.

“The impact has been extreme, and I don’t think we’re going to understand the extent of it until the growing season next year,” Ramsay said. “I don’t think that we’re going to know with exact detail what the impacts have been of the flood until everything has been harvested and counted.”

The organization is offering zero-interest loans of up to $15,000. Ramsay said many farmers are reluctant to take on more debt, but he said payments on the loans can be deferred for up to 12 months.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or reach out to reporter Peter Hirschfeld:


Updated: September 7, 2023 at 2:47 PM EDT
This story has been updated with information from the Center for an Agricultural Economy.
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