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Lamont Says Connecticut Farmers Need Emergency Help After Tropical Storm Elsa

Tropical Storm Elsa Flooding
Tyler Russell
Connecticut Public
A par-3 golf course is submerged by the overflowing Hockanum River in Vernon on July 9, 2021, due to flooding from Tropical Storm Elsa.

Gov. Ned Lamont asked the federal government Thursday to assist farmers who suffered crop damage due to Tropical Storm Elsa. In a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, the governor said high winds and heavy rains caused growers across the state “significant damage” and crop losses.

According to the letter, the National Weather Service recorded Elsa bringing winds between 39 mph and 42 mph across the state and up to 5 inches of rainfall.

Connecticut received a significant volume of rain both before and after Elsa, which further complicated matters.

“I don’t see this much rain being beneficial in any way,” said Shuresh Ghimire, an assistant extension educator and a vegetable specialist at UConn Extension. “Because the soil cannot hold all this rainfall and provide it in [the] future when there is potential drought.”

In addition to soil erosion and accelerating the arrival of certain plant diseases, Ghimire, who works with farmers across the state, said heavy rainfall and standing water pools create other ripple effects on farmers.

“Farmers can’t take their equipment into the field to do spraying for insect management,” he said. “So, you create more problem[s] when you’re not able to operate your equipment.”

In a statement, the governor’s office said if Lamont’s emergency request is approved, it would let farmers in all eight counties access emergency loans to cover production losses tied to Elsa.

“In the aftermath of Tropical Storm Elsa, the Connecticut Department of Agriculture worked in coordination with the USDA Farm Service Agency to ensure that producers reported damages and crop loss within the required timeframe,” Connecticut Agriculture Commissioner Bryan Hurlburt said in a statement. “The reports submitted indicate that damages and crop losses are significantly above the 30% trigger to request the declaration.

“If approved, this will provide assistance to eligible producers in approved counties to ensure they have the tools needed to continue for future seasons,” Hurlburt said.

Ghimire said the farms hardest hit were close to rivers or neglected to diversify and cover crops, control rainfall or rotate fields.

“We are seeing more and more of these extreme weather events,” Ghimire said. “Drought or too much rain and storms more frequently than before. So all farmers should be prepared.”

Patrick Skahill is a reporter and digital editor at Connecticut Public. Prior to becoming a reporter, he was the founding producer of Connecticut Public Radio's The Colin McEnroe Show, which began in 2009. Patrick's reporting has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, Here & Now, and All Things Considered. He has also reported for the Marketplace Morning Report. He can be reached by phone at 860-275-7297 or by email: pskahill@ctpublic.org.

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