Gov. Ned Lamont submitted a request on Monday for a federal disaster declaration in all eight Connecticut counties in response to nearly $21 million of farm and agriculture damage caused by flooding throughout the month of July.
The request to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack followed a statewide assessment of flood damage to a total of 27 Connecticut farms impacting more than 1,500 acres of land. In the letter, Lamont wrote that the state had already exceeded 423% of its typical July rainfall.
“Farms are small businesses that provide the food we rely on and also employ a significant number of workers,” Lamont said in a press release. “The approval of this declaration will help these farmers continue supporting their businesses. I appreciate Secretary Vilsack’s consideration of this request and his ongoing support for Connecticut’s agricultural industry.”
A federal declaration would make impacted farmers eligible for assistance programs like emergency loans to offset the costs related to crops lost during the recent flooding, which was most severe in the Connecticut River Valley and the areas along other rivers.
Those damages compounded an already difficult year for the state’s agricultural industry. Earlier this month, federal officials approved a separate disaster declaration related to freezing temperatures which caused an “incredible amount of damage” to crops back in May. Farmers seeking assistance from the freezing disaster should contact a local USDA office.
In Monday’s letter, Lamont urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture to use ongoing negotiations over the 2023 Farm Bill as an opportunity to modify federal assistance programs to better serve the small farm operations common in Connecticut.
“As I have spoken to farmers impacted by this flooding, it has become clear that the current USDA risk management tools are not adequate to support small and diversified farm operations,” Lamont wrote. “These farms are underinsured, or uninsured, and the programs available are not sufficient to provide the support necessary to manage years like this one.”
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal and 1st Congressional District Rep. John Larson made similar arguments during a press conference last week on a flooded field in Glastonbury.
“Let’s just be very blunt: that crop insurance utterly fails to provide adequate compensation as it is now structured,” Blumenthal said.
On Monday, Blumenthal was expected to announce he was co-sponsoring legislation to reform the federal crop insurance program.