Warm fall, little snow help storm-battered farms

By George M. Walsh

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Feb. 2 2012 8:25 a.m. MST

That left farmers waiting for help from local governments facing budget difficulties. Massachusetts and Connecticut rejiggered grant programs to give damaged farms priority but didn't allocate new money. Neither did Vermont, where the Agriculture Department helped distribute money donated to Vermont Community Foundation's Farm Disaster Fund.

New York farmers got a quick shot of emergency assistance from the state agriculture department, with about $5 million out of an eventual package of $15 million earmarked for cleanup, conservation and repairs, said Darrel Aubertine, a farmer and New York's agriculture commissioner. That money went to 350 farms in 25 counties and "really was a hardcore effort to do all we could."

The Lloyds got about $72,500. Richard Ball, who farms nearby, began recovering with about $65,000 provided through Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration.

"We're OK. It's been an odd winter," said Ball, whose vegetable crops were flattened and who saw damage to about 200 acres due to Irene and Lee. "We've generally been able get a lot done with the weather. We healed our land."

Ball said the fields were smoothed, ruts and divots filled, debris removed and seeds set.

In the Midwest, many farmers along the flood-ravaged Missouri River have been unable to take advantage of the mild winter because their levees aren't fixed. The USDA is making money available, but if farmers in some areas fix the flood damage while the levees are still broken and the land is damaged again, they either have to repair the land without the USDA's help or return the money the agency originally provided.

Associated Press writer Heather Hollingsworth contributed to this report from Kansas City, Mo.

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