The heavy snowstorms this winter have been especially hard on area farms.
Ross Eddy, executive directorof the Hartford-Tolland County Farmer Service Agency (FSA) Office, said more than 300 agricultural structures in the state have suffered damage, according to early reports. One of the more striking instances of the losses due to this harsh winter season is that a chicken coop in Bozrah lost 85,000 egg-laying hens when heavy snow caused the building to collapse.
Eddy said the reality is the the damage of structures across the state is much greater and the numbers are signficantly higher.
Eddy's office sent out more than 1,000 postcards to farms in its database asking owners to report any losses. Eddy said the FSA normally keeps data on the types of crops area farmers raise, and not necessarily on the number and types of structures on their property.
According to the USDA's Farm Service Agency there are currently two programs available to assist farmers with agricultural losses from building collapses, structural damages and livestock losses: a livestock indemnity program and an emergency loan program for building collapses. However, losses due to this winter's weather must be reported within 30 days of the apparent loss to the FSA.
With regard to the emergency loan program for building collapses, Tolland Public Safety Supervisor and Fire Chief John C. Littell also stressed the Town's need for a formal list of other properties damaged by the major snowstorms seen this season. "We need to get a formal list assembled for federal assistance for loans," he said.
Littell said that many people are not reporting buildings like personal garages and sheds, thinking those are too negligible to report. Yet he said that those also count toward the formal list for the town to get assistance.
Littell said residents should contact him at 860-871-3674 or Building Official Glen LeConche at 860-871-3601 to include any building collapses due to the after effects of recent storms as soon as possible.
The 30-day loss reporting requirement is important, said Eddy, particularly when the building collapse has resulted in the death of animals.
Eddy said the livestock program pays through an indemnity payment to the owner of the animals. The animal loss must be the direct result of the disaster condition—in this case excessive snow resulting in a building collapse—and the loss must be above normal mortality rates that would be on a farm for the specific species, he said.
The Hartford-Tolland County FSA office does not yet have a Declaration of Disaster in hand, Eddy said. For such a declaration, the agency must be able to document, or at least have a good record of all the losses to commercial farms. Eddy said that producing a minimum of $1,000 a year in farm products is enough to be considered as a commercial agriculture business.
Declarations of Disaster can come in three forms, including a broad-based Presidential Declaration that some cities and towns are looking for to help with general snow removal. State officials can also receive a Secretarial Declaration from the Secretary of Agriculture in Washington, D.C., or an Administrators Declaration from the the Administrator of the Farm Service Agency. All three can result in financial assistance to the community, which initially could mean making more disaster-related loans available for physical losses.
"We've been getting so many calls [reporting losses], we're challenged right now just to load that information into a database," Eddy said. "We've had lots of reports of damage both to buildings and contents of buildings, and unfortunately few towns have been immune to loss."
Littell said, "Right now, it looks like Region 3 is the most devastated region in the state." Region 3 encompasses many towns, including Tolland, Vernon, Ellington, Somers, Manchester, East Windsor, Windsor, Windsor Locks and Suffield.
Eddy said the FSA's emergency loan program enables farmers to borrow up to 100 percent of the value of their physical losses to barns, greenhouses and hoop houses to repair or replace the structures, not to exceed $500,000. The loans are being given at a 3.75 percent interest rate for as many as 30 years, subject to typical mortgage-like loan requirements.
"The one thing that Tolland and Hartford counties have that others don't are tobacco sheds for storing and curing cigar binder and cigar wrapper tobacco," Eddy said. Several tobacco sheds have collapsed in Ellington, East Windsor, Somers, Enfield, Somers, Suffield and elsewhere.
"In some cases, there were only partial collapses, where they need to secure the portion of the building still remaining," Eddy said. He added that with snow cover remaining on the partially collapsed roofs, it might be prudent at this point to wait until the snow melts off on its own before trying to go in and assess damage to equipment that was stored inside.
"We're particularly concerned about tobacco sheds because at harvest time people go in and stand at different levels to handle the tobacco," he said. "Those sheds aren't open now, but during harvest season the workers hang the plants or the leaves on laths that are hung from poles in the barn, and when that additional weight goes on, we're concerned that might be an issue later on."
Eddy said the FSA is also concerned about structures that are under stress that have not as yet collapsed, but which might still be in danger. He suggested that farmers survey their buildings to check for cracked beams or rafters that may need repair.
To report any farm losses, FSA can be contacted at the phone numbers below:
344 Merrow Road, Suite B
Tolland, CT 06084-3917
Telephone: (860) 871-4090
(860) 871-4099 (FAX)
Marsha B. Jetté - State Executive Director
Hartford-Tolland County FSA Office
100 Northfield Drive, FL 4
Windsor, CT 06095-4730
Ross E. Eddy - County Executive Director
Litchfield-Fairfield County FSA Office
1185 New Litchfield Street
Torrington, CT 06790-6098
Telephone: (860) 626-8852
(860) 626-8850 (FAX)
Howard E. Rood - County Executive Director
New Haven-Middlesex County FSA Office
97 Barnes Road
Wallingford, CT 06492-1900
Telephone: (203) 269-6665
(203) 294-9741 (FAX)
Nancy H. Welsh - County Executive Director
New London County FSA Office
238 West Town Street
Norwich, CT 06360-6599
Telephone: (860) 887-9941
(860) 887-4082 (FAX)
Ann Marie McCard - County Executive Director
Windham County FSA Office
139 Wolf Den Road
Brooklyn, CT 06234-1729
Telephone: (860) 774-8397
(860) 779-0148 (FAX)
Dawn S. Pindell - County Executive Director