Farm relief funds in NH would counter climate change-related crop damage
Monday, February 12, 2024
Two proposed relief funds for New Hampshire farmers aim to recover losses from climate change-related weather events.
Years of droughts were followed by the wettest summer on record in 2023. Extreme flooding, a tornado and frost in mid-May cost fruit and vegetable farmers an estimated $13 million.
Sen. Donovan Fenton, D-Keene, said farmers are asking for help.
"Right now they only have options for low-interest loans and insurance," Fenton pointed out. "Most of them are underinsured because it's so expensive."
Fenton has introduced a bill to create a $5 million fund to help farmers affected by future disasters, while another bill would help cover up to half of farmers' recent losses. He noted it is just a start for what is expected to be a growing number of climate change-related weather events.
Agricultural tourism supports an estimated 10,000 jobs and contributes hundreds of millions of dollars to New Hampshire each year but weather-related crop damage has already kept tourists away. Apple, pear and cherry trees in the southern part of the state are usually a big draw, but unseasonably cold temperatures devastated crops.
Fenton argued New Hampshire should follow Vermont's lead in helping farmers access both federal and state dollars to survive.
"Everyone comes to New Hampshire to apple pick, and there were no apples to be picked this year," Fenton observed. "If we don't help our farmers, we're going to lose not just food to eat but that agricultural tourism business as well."
Fenton added the state needs to study changes in infrastructure to prepare for more extreme flooding. The University of New Hampshire Extension has also begun a pilot program to help farmers find ways to make their operations more climate resilient.
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