Apr 24, 2020
Colorado Farm Bureau seeks disaster declaration for Western Slope fruit growers

Colorado Farm Bureau sent a letter on April 20 to USDA Secretary Sonny Purdue, urging for a disaster declaration for counties on Colorado’s Western Slope facing devastation to fruit crops because of a recent freeze.

“While the impact is still being calculated, and real losses might not be known for weeks, initial numbers indicate that 90%, or more, of the fruit crop will be lost for these farmers. This is a loss they couldn’t afford in a good year, let alone a year where we are fighting a global health pandemic and a downturn in the economy,” wrote Don Shawcroft, Colorado Farm Bureau president, in the letter.

Colorado grows approximately 17,000 tons of peaches each year and is worth $40 million. Temperatures dropped to a record low of 19 degrees on Mon., April 13 devastating tree buds for the fall’s fruit crop. A disaster declaration for the area would allow farmers and ranchers to access aid not normally available, helping them weather the storm and hopefully continue operating.

“A disaster declaration will also lend itself to the further expansion of other relief programming, such as, but not limited to WHIP Plus. Access to extra support for these farmers could be the tipping point for their businesses helping them survive this difficult time,” continued Shawcroft.

Evaluation of the total loss in crops continues as farmers monitor their crops in wake of the freeze. As Senators Bennet and Gardner noted in a recent letter to USDA, “Colorado’s climate and high elevation contribute to a thriving specialty crop sector that accounts for nearly $485 million of the state’s agriculture revenue.” Palisade peaches are one of those specialty crops and a loss to this unique industry will have lasting effects on the local and regional economy.

A Colorado peach orchard. Photo: Colorado Farm Bureau

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