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Tebbetts: Agriculture sector hit hard by flooding

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(The Center Square) – Historic flooding during Vermont’s already short growing season has wreaked devastation in the agriculture sector, one state official said.

Speaking from the Agency of Transportation’s Dill Building in Berlin, Secretary of Agriculture Anson Tebbetts said the storms that have passed through Vermont have brought nothing short of tragedy for farmers.

“We know the story, we’ve seen the images, we’ve witnessed the heart-breaking pictures of water tearing through our cities and our towns and villages, uprooting our roads and our bridges, flooding our farms and destroying our crops,” Tebbetts said. “This tragic event follows closely on the heels of a hard freeze many of our farmers experienced in May.”

“It’s too early to fully describe or even estimate the damages. But it’s clear the losses will be catastrophic, and our farmers, small businesses, and agriculture producers will need help,” he said.

Tebbetts said he expects the flooding to destroy much of the state’s produce while impacting livestock, especially in the river valleys where countless fields grow corn, hay, vegetables, and fruit and serve as a pasture.

“We’re swamped and buried,” he said.

The effects of the flooding, Tebbetts said, will impact the state as “crops cannot be replanted” and “losses will not be effectively recovered or mitigated.”

“Farming is challenging and rewarding, but heavy losses of agriculture, products, or feed will put many at risk,” Tebbetts said. “There is a ripple effect. The disruption to our farms may disrupt our regional food system and our food security. The widespread flooding we suffered throughout Vermont this week is among the worst of the last century, and it arrived in the heart of our growing season.”

Tebbetts said the focus of the agriculture sector is now focused on recovery.

“The work will not stop,” Tebbetts said. “We want our farmers, producers, and nurseries to document their losses. There will be a time we will need that information to present to our federal partners, including FEMA and the United States Department of Agriculture. Farmers should contact their insurance agent. We encourage our farmers to visit our web page for any of our or any of our social media channels. We have put together a packet of resources that may help farmers navigate the many issues that they’re facing.”

Republican Gov. Phil Scott said President Joe Biden approved Vermont’s federal major disaster declaration 20 minutes before stepping to the microphone. He also announced the first fatality from the flooding event in Barre.

“It will open up significant federal resources for communities, individuals, businesses, and the state,” Scott said of the federal declaration. “We’re working to develop a concrete list of resources to help impacted Vermonters and making sure it’s as easy as possible for Vermonters to access those.”

Commissioner of Public Safety Jennifer Morrison updated shelter activity and urged residents to call 2-1-1 for non-emergency needs.

Morrison said that as of 8 a.m. Friday, there were 35 individuals seeking shelter in Barre, four in Rutland, 23 in Johnson, and six in North Ludlow.

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