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'Case-by-case': Experts say farmers may be able to save some crops from flooded fields

 Mumat Aweys translates for a collective of Somali Bantu farmers who lost all their crops in Hadley and Northampton during a visit from state legislators on July 24, 2023.
Jill Kaufman
Mumat Aweys translates for a collective of Somali Bantu farmers who lost all their crops in Hadley and Northampton during a visit from state legislators on July 24, 2023.

Massachusetts agricultural officials and others are working with farmers to see what crops may still be saved and what can't. That's after fields across western Mass. were flooded in recent storms.

The UMass Extension, which works with local farmers, has been assisting those affected by the floods.

The program's director, Clem Clay, said crops touched by floodwaters from rivers must be destroyed.

But under state and federal guidelines, plants which hadn't flowered yet could be salvaged. And crops impacted by flooding just from rain and not swollen rivers may be spared, Clay said.

"Those pools of water are not subject to the requirement to destroy, necessarily, and so there's much greater chance that they will be able to use those crops," he said.

Clay said there are many factors that go into figuring out if crops can be harvested — including whether the water was polluted.

"There is a need to assess the details of the situation, what might have been in the flood water and so on," Clay said. "That's case-by-case. Every farm may have had different issues, different types of flooding."

Clay said trying to get to fields to assess damage has been difficult, as many are still too wet to access. He also said farmers are having to contend with diseases affecting plants from recent damp and humid weather.

State officials previously estimated some 2,000 acres of farmland has been impacted by flooding, causing more than $10 million in damage, but cautioned those totals are expected to rise as more assessments are done.

On Wednesday, the Massachusetts Senate approved $20 million in relief funds for farmers as part of a supplemental spending plan, which now awaits action from the House.

Also, the Massachusetts Farm Resiliency fund was announced by Gov. Maura Healey’s administration to award grants to growers in need. The United Way of Central Massachusetts is administering the program, and Healey has urged state residents to donate.

Adam joined NEPM as a freelance reporter and fill-in operations assistant during the summer of 2011. For more than 15 years, Adam has had a number stops throughout his broadcast career, including as a news reporter and anchor, sports host and play-by-play announcer as well as a producer and technician.

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