Nearly 350 Massachusetts farmers who suffered costly crop losses following destructive flooding and deep freezes earlier this year are set to receive $20 million in state aid to help them “recover and rebuild,” Governor Maura Healey’s office said Monday.
Three rounds of severe weather took their toll on local farms, beginning in early February when an Arctic blast of subfreezing temperatures wiped out the year’s peach and plum crops.
Three months later, farmers were dealt another blow when temperatures again plunged to below freezing after most fruit blossoms had set, destroying apple, pear, and grape crops.
The last time farmers in Massachusetts had seen such damaging frigid temperatures was in 2016.
The harsh weather continued this past summer with July’s unprecedented rainfall that deluged parts of the state. Devastating flooding in Western and Central Massachusetts resulted in a total loss of thousands of acres of crops at more than 110 farms. Federal officials designated seven counties in Massachusetts as “primary natural disaster areas” stemming from losses caused by the heavy rains and flooding.
In announcing the funds, Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll said in a statement, “Farmers are on the front lines of an increasingly volatile climate.”
“The natural disasters highlight the severity of the impacts that climate change has on our environment,” Rebecca Tepper, the state’s energy and environmental affairs secretary, said in the statement. “Our farms are becoming more vulnerable, and it is important that we help them now in their time of need but also provide the necessary long-term support.”
The relief funds will be distributed to all 347 farms immediately, just in time for local farmers to begin the working on next year’s growing and harvest season, the governor’s office said. The farms that will receive the aid are located throughout the state, from Cheshire to North Andover.