Disaster declaration sought for Delta farmers

Posted: Thursday, January 04, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Gov. Tony Knowles has written Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman, asking that he formally declare Delta Junction's growing season a federal disaster.

Delta farmers are facing approximately $4 million in crop losses because of heavy rains in August and September and an early snow.

A disaster declaration would free federal money to help the farmers. Farmers have said the losses are the worst in memory. Delta's farm industry is worth an estimated $6 million a year.

''We're in a world of hurt,'' said Scott Miller, owner of Misty Mountain Farms. ''We've never entered a winter with all of our barns empty and nothing for our livestock.''

Miller is estimating his own losses at around $50,000.

''Losses have been documented as 82 percent on grass hay, 98 percent on oat hay, 91 percent on pasture, 56 percent on silage and 100 percent on grass seed,'' Knowles said in his Dec. 29 letter to Glickman. Efforts to rejuvenate winter-killed hay fields also were hampered by the inclement fall weather, which included snow on Sept. 28, the governor wrote.

''Crop insurance has already been triggered on those crops that are insurable, and it is anticipated that noninsured crops will also have some coverage,'' Knowles said. ''However, it appears the USDA Emergency Loan Program, and other assistance as it may become available, will be necessary for the hard-hit producers in the Delta area.''

Glickman already has the documentation he needs to make the declaration, said Jimmy LaVoie, a federal farm program specialist at Palmer. His office sent the documents early to hasten such a response, LaVoie said.

Hay crops bore the highest monetary losses, at $3.6 million, the documents said. Grass seed was a total loss, wiping out an expected $104,000 in income. Delta's carrot crop faced a 37 percent loss, or $10,695, the documents said.

The Delta farmers also lost $150,000 of pastures to winter kill, LaVoie said.

''It's just really tough out there,'' LaVoie told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. He was hearing that more farmers are taking other jobs to help them make it through the bad times.

Miller is one of them. He was hired recently by the state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities to work at a maintenance station.

''Well, now I can afford to keep farming,'' Miller said about the job.

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