Economy
4:11 pm
Mon July 2, 2012

After tough losses, MI farmers get some federal help

The federal government has approved financial support for Michigan fruit growers whose crops suffered due to unusual temperature fluctuations.

Almost all of Michigan's counties--72 of 83-- are now considered natural disaster areas and eligible for help.

Some growers say crop losses haven't been this bad in three generations.

“My father's 72 and it's the worst year he's ever seen as far as fruit production," said Mike Wittenbach, who  owns Wittenbach Orchards in Belding, northeast of Grand Rapids. "My great-uncle always talks about 1945, and that's the year the state of Michigan had a similar crop to this year, which is very little fruit.” 

 Wittenbach lost two-thirds of his apple crop this year.

After an eight-month application window, qualifying farmers can receive low-interest emergency loans meant to  finance production losses to crops.

A rare heat wave in March that reached the mid-eighties in some regions of the state caused cherry, apple and other fruit trees to bloom early. Those buds froze over in the following cold snap. The AP reports that government and business leaders say some regions lost 90 percent of their crops.

Congressman Fred Upton (R) represents St. Joseph, one of the affected areas.  In a press release from his office today, he said,

“This announcement will help provide a critical lifeline for Michigan fruit growers who are facing the worst losses in memory. I applaud both Governor Snyder and Secretary Vilsack for recognizing the urgency of this situation and responding accordingly.  Our family farms in southwest Michigan play such an important role in our daily lives and in the local economy, so it is imperative they have the necessary support when disaster strikes."

According to the Wall Street Journal, total losses of all crops by Michigan farmers were estimated at $223.5 million after this year's unusual weather, most of which comes from the devastated apple and cherry crops.