ROCKY HILL, Conn. (WTNH) — Connecticut farms are struggling to survive as they await financial aid.
Hayes Farm, founded in 1868, was hit by historic, damaging floods in July. The farm lost 73 acres to the water — two-thirds of the crop. Now, they’re worried about when promised government funds will arrive.
“It was uh, tearful, still is,” said Francis Whelan, who co-owns the farm.
On sunny days, Whelan said he’d be harvesting hay crop for the second yield of the season. Not this year.
“I had just cut one field the week before this happened, and the rest were going to be continuously as the weather-permitted make our hay, but we lost everything after that,” Whelan said..
The flooding created a ripple effect. No hay means no feed for their cattle. Whelan said the farm has sold 10 cows — and will need to sell more to stay afloat.
He originally thought the farm would lose most of its cattle but local farms pitched in and donated feed — a lifeline Whelan expected to come from elsewhere.
“The governor, lieutenant governor saw the damage, talked to us and we have yet to see positive results,” Whelan said. “We have got word there are low-interest loans us farmers can take, but, unfortunately we are all so in debt now it doesn’t make sense to take on more debt, we don’t have income coming in.”
News 8 reached out to Gov. Ned Lamont’s office, which refused to comment.
In a statement to News 8, Department of Agriculture Commissioner Bryan Hurlburt reads:
“Farms are small businesses that provide the food we rely on and also employ a significant number of workers, and we are committed to getting them back to full production. We feel confident that we’ve surpassed the required federal thresholds for a declaration and appreciate the USDA’s consideration of this request. If approved, this declaration will make available significant support to farmers to recover from the flooding, such as emergency loans.”
Farmers can check eligibility for the USDA loan through the Farm Service Agency.
The Connecticut Department of Agriculture also opened its annual farmland restoration grant early this year.
Aug. 31 is the final day for applications.
Lawmakers said the state and federal grant process is a lengthy one, and farmers may have to wait until 2024 before they see aid.
“The state of Massachusetts has allocated $20 million to help the farmers in Massachusetts,” Sen. Saud Anwar (D-District 3) said. “In Connecticut, I feel we have more to do.”
Even early 2024 may be too late, Whelan said.
“I’m frustrated with the government because of that,” he said. “It’s a slow process, yet our country can afford to give millions and billions to other countries. The American farmer is left to survive on their own.”
Hayes Farm will check its hay crop in next couple of weeks to determine whether any of it is salvageable, or if it will have to reseed for next season, which would cost tens of thousands of dollars.