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Fruit loss produces disaster declaration

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Fruit growers in Delta County lost an estimated 70 percent of their apples, peaches, pears, apricots and sweet cherries when temperatures dropped below freezing repeatedly last spring.

As a result of the frigid temperatures between April 2 and 19, Governor John Hickenlooper has approved a primary county disaster designation for Delta County. Gunnison, Montrose and Mesa counties were declared contiguous disaster counties.

By his "conservative estimate," Alan Bull, the county executive director for the Farm Service Agency, says losses totaled $9 to $10 million in Delta County. The governor's declaration opens up an emergency loan program.

The designation covers any crop affected by the freezing weather and frost damage during that time period.

"The most notable impact was to fruit crops, but the weather may have also affected early vegetables/berries and possibly stunted hay growth, which later recovered," Bull said.

The disaster declaration was deferred until after harvest, "because we didn't want it to hurt the market for producers who did have fruit," Bull added.

Disaster areas are declared in accordance with the Colorado state executive director of the Farm Service Agency with the USDA.

"USDA reviewed the loss assessment report and determined that there were sufficient production losses to warrant a secretarial natural disaster designation," USDA Secretary Thomas Vilsack said in a letter to Gov. Hickenlooper.

Relief is available through low interest emergency loans. The loans are available to operators of family-size farms/ranches that are unable to obtain credit elsewhere. Loans are based on physical and production losses caused by the disaster.

Producers must file an application for an emergency loan through the Farm Service Agency by June 26. Each application will be considered on its own merit, taking into account the extent of losses, security available, repayment ability and other eligibility requirements.

For more information about emergency loans contact Laurie Neilson, farm loan manager, at 242-9133, ext. 2.

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