Menendez, Lautenberg Ask USDA To Help New Jersey Farmers

Menendez, Lautenberg Ask USDA To Help New Jersey Farmers

This year's violent storms destroyed crops; a natural disaster designation would bring welcome economic relief

Washington - U.S. Senators Robert Menendez and Frank Lautenberg have written a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer, encouraging Sec. Schafer to grant Governor Jon Corzine's request and issue a natural-disaster designation for the 10 New Jersey counties in which crops have been devastated by violent storms, floods, drought, and hail. Many of New Jersey's small family farmers cannot absorb the financial losses caused by the destruction of their entire crops.

"We must look after New Jersey farmers, particularly in difficult years like this one," said Senator Menendez. "High winds, torrential downpours and even hail in the middle of summer have destroyed our blueberries, fruits, vegetables, and grain crops, serving up an additional challenge in these already hard financial times. A natural disaster designation would allow New Jersey farmers to access much needed economic relief."

"Heavy storms, flooding and drought have hit New Jersey farmers hard this year and we need to do all we can to help them recover," Sen. Lautenberg said. "I support Governor Corzine's request for a natural disaster designation in New Jersey, and I will continue to fight to make sure our farmers get the assistance they need to keep growing their crops in these difficult times."

Sens. Menendez and Lautenberg are encouraging the U.S. Department of Agriculture to declare a natural disaster designation for storms and weather related destruction to crops from May through August 10 including Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester, Mercer, Monmouth, Ocean, and Salem counties.

Text of letter to Secretary Schaffer:
August 25, 2008

Honorable Ed Schafer
Secretary, U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave., S.W.
Washington, DC 20250

Dear Secretary Schafer:

New Jersey farmers have had this year's harvest devastated by a series of violent storms and destructive weather patterns. Our blueberries, fruits, vegetables, and grain crops have been hard hit by high winds, torrential downpours, drought, hail, and even waterspouts. These storms began in May, but have persisted throughout the summer, culminating in the hail storms of August 10th.

The hail physically damaged blueberry bushes and shredded plants, while its icy cold froze and killed the leaves. This has been an economic disaster, inflicting substantial losses to New Jersey's most important crops. As a result, Governor Jon S. Corzine has requested a federal natural-disaster designation in 10 of New Jersey's 21 counties.

While your Farm Service Agency (FSA) is continuing to document the damage from the last storm, it is already clear that many farmers have been crushed, seeing their entire crops destroyed and their annual earnings wiped out. Paul Hlubik, the State Executive Director of the USDA's FSA characterized the damage as "quite devastating".

We urge you to grant Governor Corzine's request, and issue a natural-disaster designation for the damage from the storms on May 12-16th, the drought which began on June 10th, the wind and hail on June 24th, and the hail on August 10th. We further ask that you include all 10 of the affected counties in this designation: Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester, Mercer, Monmouth, Ocean, and Salem.

New Jersey's farmers desperately need access to the emergency loans and relief measures that accompany a federal natural-disaster designation. Many of New Jersey's small, family farms simply do not have the resources to cope with this catastrophe without federal help.
Thank you for considering this request.

United States Senator United States Senator