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Disaster prep is key to Schoharie County farm grants

Tuesday, March 26, 2013
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— Schoharie County farmers can get up to $50,000 from a new matching grant program, but they have to be prepared for the next disaster to qualify for the money.

The Schoharie County Planning and Development Department on Monday announced applications for the Agriculture Assistance Grant Program are due at the end of April.

Unlike past grant programs, the county is asking farmers to complete a six-hour class focused on preventing a repeat of massive losses sustained in flooding from tropical storms Irene and lee.

“After the flooding of 2011, we realized that a number of our agricultural businesses were just not prepared for that type of disaster,” said Sarah Blood, county economic development marketing coordinator. After crop insurance and other grants are taken into account, Blood said the county’s farms suffered more than $14 million in uncovered losses. She said USDA Farm Service Agency figures estimate 150 of the county’s farms lost 30 percent of 35,000 acres of hay, valued at $7.7 million.

A total of 25 farms sustained at least 50 percent damage to corn crops on 3,500 acres, valued at $1.3 million; 75 farms lost 35 percent of corn on 10,000 acres, valued at $3.5 million. One farm lost 15 acres of apples valued at $260,000 and 15 farms lost more than half of 850 acres of vegetables, valued at $1.45 million.

The grants are aimed at helping farms reverse the disaster’s costs. Disasters often lead farms to stave off purchases like safety equipment for machinery, just to survive, Blood said.

“The lost revenue hasn’t allowed them to grow and thrive and be competitive in the global market,” Blood said.

The certificate can also yield an insurance discount for farmers. According to Cornell Cooperative Extension, Farm Family Insurance provides a 10 percent discount on its SFP Policy coverage including farm buildings, farm liability and machinery.

Nationwide and CountryWay insurance companies are taking the certificate into account when evaluating policy packages and might offer discounts; Finger Lakes Fire and Casualty applied to the state for approval to provide a 10 percent discount.

The county has a total of $450,000 available for farms that qualify, and the qualification includes learning how to prepare for disasters. The course, conducted by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Schoharie and Otsego Counties, covers a list of subjects that can impact agricultural operations.

A workshop is scheduled to precede the grant application deadline so farmers interested in applying can secure their certificate.

The certificate program workshop will be held Wednesday, April 10, from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Schoharie United Presbyterian Church at 314 Main St. in Schoharie.

The program costs $15 and includes handout material, lunch and refreshments. People can register by calling Cornell Cooperative Extension of Schoharie and Otsego Counties at 234-4303.

 
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