Connecticut officials toured the waterlogged grounds of Killam and Bassette Farmstead in Glastonbury Monday as they assessed the impact of days of rainfall which have flooded an estimated 2,000 acres of farmland across the state.
Members of Gov. Ned Lamont’s administration and Connecticut’s congressional delegation spoke during a midmorning press conference situated beside a new expanse of still water smothering acres of soil normally used to cultivate everything from sweet corn to pumpkins.
“No profession is more subject to the whims of mother nature than what each and every one of you do,” Lamont told local farmers at the event. “I want to say to our farmers in particular: we love you and we needed you more than ever during COVID.”
The governor was among many officials to voice support for Connecticut’s farming industry, which generates around $4 billion in economic activity in the state, according to Bryan Hurlburt, the commissioner of agriculture. The industry is spread across some 5,500 small farms and employs around 22,000 people, he said.
Flooding caused by July rainstorms have impacted some 2,000 acres of agricultural lands, causing millions of dollars in damages, Hurlburt said. On Monday, he urged affected farmers to report their losses so state officials can calculate a more precise accounting of the damage and apply for a federal disaster declaration.
The eventual cost of the flooding is expected to be high. The flood waters, which rose up out of the nearby Connecticut River, potentially carried sewage and toxins. That means any crops touched by the water are considered contaminated and must be disposed of.
Chris Bassette, co-owner of the Glastonbury farm, urged consumers to be sympathetic with local farmers as they struggle with the consequences of the flood waters.
“We’re doing the best we can to provide the freshest product for you and this is what we’re dealing with,” Bassette said. “So the prices might be a little bit higher because we are not producing as much as we normally do.”
She urged Connecticut consumers to continue to support local farmers markets rather than buying their produce at grocery stores.
“Remember your farmers,” Bassette said. “Don’t go to the grocery stores. Come and see us and help us get through this.”
Representatives of the state Department of Agriculture plan to travel to impacted areas in order to meet with farmers to help them navigate the available assistance resources. The governor said a Small Business Boost Fund, administered by the Economic and Community Development Department, could help farmers recover by providing access to low-interest loans.
It has been an especially difficult year for local farmers. Hurlburt said the state had already applied for one federal disaster declaration in the wake of significant crop losses in May as a result of an unseasonable cold snap.
“In May we had subfreezing [temperatures] for many hours across the state, in June we had droughts and in July we have floods,” Hurlburt said. “These challenges are becoming harder and harder for Connecticut farmers to deal with and to manage through.”
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal and 1st Congressional District Rep. John Larson both called for passing reforms to crop insurance policies to better serve small farms like those in Connecticut. Blumenthal and Larson said the issue could be addressed through an amendment on this year’s Farm Bill.
The impact of the flooding was not limited exclusively to Connecticut’s farmlands. During Monday’s press conference, Lamont described damage to a bridge in Bristol and flooding in northern Hartford.
Meanwhile, Department of Energy and Environmental Protection officials said the agency was monitoring dams across the state to assess their
“It hits every piece of our state,” the governor said. “A lot of folks struggling just to keep their heads above water.”